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Forged in Rare Diseases and Future-Ready

Why rare disease experience offers unparalleled value

Authored by Melissa Dagless, Global Head of Growth and Innovation – Partner, Uptake for PM Group Worldwide Ltd, PME Magazine.

If you ask many people which kinds of brands they’d most love to work with, chances are they will cite the big players – Nike, Apple, etc. Equally, if a CV lands on a business leader’s desk that shows a candidate has experience working for one of these organisations, it’s likely that they will be more impressed than by a candidate having experience working for a small local company or start-up.

Could they be missing a huge trick? Of course, the above organisations have significant influence, and cumulatively, demonstrate innovation in spades. But, how impactful can an individual be – really – when working for a huge organisation?

It can be a similar tale in the world of pharma and biotech, but there is one very special overlooked area, in large organisations and small, which builds skills like no other: rare diseases. Much like in a small start-up, individuals must wear multiple hats, ‘do more with less’ and truly partner with stakeholders across health ecosystems for the good of patients. Working in rare, you become the trailblazing leaders of healthcare revolutions, standing up for underserved patient populations with no ‘play book’ to follow. The stakes are immensely high, and all this pressure creates the hidden diamonds of our industry.

Those of us who have spent time immersed in rare diseases will know that you are at the forefront of innovation, forced to adopt growth mindsets to navigate highly intricate challenges in an ever-changing environment. This ultimately builds the skillset that I believe is needed in our future pharmaceutical industry leaders.

Experience of rare creates:

  1. Strong connectors

It truly takes a village to successful ensure patients can gain access to medicines in rare diseases. You must use the art of connection to overcome conventional boundaries, enabling you to collaborate seamlessly with governments, patients, patient advocates, and healthcare professionals.

  1. Personalisation experts

The deep patient personalisation inherent in rare disease work is a cornerstone of success. Understanding the unique needs and experiences of individuals, often when data and research is scarce, is not merely a luxury but a foundational skill in an industry increasingly moving towards personalised medicine. Once you have developed this ability, you have unlocked a superpower.

  1. Resourceful budgeters

In rare, you are often operating within extremely tight budgets with a small crack force team, so leanness is a finely honed skill, which requires resourcefulness and critical thinking to make an impact on a relative shoestring. This is one aspect which inspires huge creativity – often re-defining role types, again, much like many small business champions outside of the pharma world who lack huge media budgets but go viral with their innovative solutions.

  1. Agile adapters

Unquestionably, rare requires you to be agile. The ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances is a survival skill that will set you up for success in any evolving landscape – and with the rate of change across the industry seemingly ever-increasing, this is a skill that should be at the top of any hiring organisation’s wish list.


As part of Uptake’s annual focus on Rare Disease Day, it is for these four reasons and more that we would urge anyone working in pharma to consider putting making an impact in the rare disease space on their career wish list. Not only are there unparalleled skillset development opportunities, but it is also an unrivalled way to reach the pinnacle of patient-centricity, with the potential reward of making a meaningful impact on underserved patient populations.

For senior management and general managers working outside of the rare disease space, recognising and acquiring talent seasoned in the intricacies of rare diseases means that you increase your chances of unlocking opportunities and optimising results. In parallel, consider how a review of the status quo, a shift in mindset, and the adoption of the core principles of those working in rare diseases could be the key to shaking up your teams and transforming innovation in your organisation this year.

If you are in the pursuit of ‘exceptional’ on a personal or organisational level, embracing and cultivating the unique skillset found in the world of rare diseases could be exactly what you need.


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Introducing Uptake’s Rare Disease and Launch Excellence Experts

Melissa Dagless

Head of Growth & Innovation

Melissa Dagless

Deborah Lough


Deborah Lough

Jo Lopez

Practice Lead – Early Commercialisation & Launch

Jo Lopez

Stephanie Hall

CEO & Founder

Stephanie Hall

Maxine Smith

Managing Director

Maxine Smith