Lilly Scientists Talk Innovation on Capitol Hill

Today’s guest blog comes from Kyla Driscoll, Ph.D., senior research advisor and group leader focused on Lilly’s immuno-oncology drug discovery and development and Emily Collins, Ph.D., senior director of imaging research and development working across the Lilly portfolio including Lilly’s pain portfolio. Kyla and Emily recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with their Lilly colleague Jirong Lu, Ph.D., to talk about their work with Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff. Here is a recap of their trip, in their own words.

June 11, 2018   

KYLA & EMILY: The night before our visit to the Hill, we had a group reception with researchers and scientists from other pharmaceutical companies who are also here in D.C. to meet with Congress. It was an opportunity to meet and network with colleagues from other companies, and also learn from people who work here in D.C. about the larger efforts to inform Congress about our work. It was great to see the shared excitement throughout this large group of people.

Jirong Lu and Kyla Driscoll and Emily Collins chatting on roof of the Watergate HotelKYLA & EMILY: We stayed at the Watergate Hotel, which has its own interesting history. We had heard the view from the hotel rooftop was fantastic, so after the reception, we headed up there and took some photos. We ended the evening with coffee and dessert – then back to our rooms to catch on up email and other work. We’re looking forward to tomorrow – it’s our first time on Capitol Hill! 

KYLA: I’m looking forward to sharing more about my work and why I’m so passionate about it and the future of immunotherapy. People living with cancer are at the center of what we do – we are working to bring medicines tailored to patients, as fast as possible, to give people with cancer a fighting chance against their disease.

EMILY: I am excited to share my experiences from my 12 years at Lilly, including my work in the migraine space. Lilly is excited to help usher in a new era of potential treatment choices for people with primary headache disorders, and we hope to soon be able to equip physicians with options that may help address the unique and varied needs of those with migraine and cluster headaches. During the last 25 years, Lilly scientists like me have helped to build our research portfolio, identify challenges for health care providers, and pinpoint the needs of patients living with migraines and cluster headaches.

June 12, 2018 

National Mall at sunriseEMILY:  I woke up early to a gorgeous day in D.C. I decided to bypass breakfast to go for a walk and see some familiar places. My walk reminded me of my weekend cycling route from when I used to live here in D.C.  It was fun to see the city waking up and preparing for the Caps’ Stanley Cup victory parade! 

KYLA:  We arrived on Capitol Hill at 8 a.m. Our first meeting wasn’t until 10 a.m., but we arrived early to avoid the parade traffic. Emily, Jirong and I went on a walk around Capitol Hill, seeing the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building. There was already a lot of activity! Jirong Lu and Kyla Driscoll and Emily Collins Capitol Selfie

EMILY: Going into the meetings, I felt confident in what I wanted to share and comfortable working with my colleagues who were with me. Our morning was back-to-back meetings with staff from several representatives’ offices. We met with really astute, smart people. I was impressed with both their knowledge of the policies their offices are focused on, as well as their understanding of the current health care environment. It was surprising to me how busy each office was with many other visitors and meetings going on. 

Jirong Lu and Kyla Driscoll and Emily Collins at Senator Joe Donnelly officeKYLA: In our morning meetings, we spent a good amount of time sharing personal stories about both our successes and our failures, and how both are important to inform innovation. Innovative treatments have saved or drastically improved hundreds of millions of lives—and will benefit many more in the future. New medicines and therapies have helped raise the average U.S. life expectancy from 47 to 78 years. Five-year cancer survival rates have increased 39 percent across all types. Continued research and development is critical to fueling future innovation, because what we learn through past failures helps pave the way for future success. 

EMILY: Like other recurrent and chronic pain conditions, migraines have a significant impact on a person’s physical, social and economic well-being, yet there remains both a stigma and an unmet need for treatment options for this debilitating disease. More than 36 million Americans have migraines. Migraines are three times more common in women as compared to men, and may affect up to 30 percent of women in a lifetime. More women in the U.S. have migraines—about 28 million women—than the entire population of Texas, the second most populous state in the U.S. 

Kyla Driscoll and Emily Collins and Jirong Lu at Congresswoman Diana DeGette officeKYLA & EMILY: After a busy morning, we took a quick lunch break. We got lunch from the cafeteria in the Rayburn House Office Building, and sat outside discussing our morning


 EMILY: After lunch, we met with several more offices, including U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). 

Emily Collins and Kyla Driscoll and Jirong Lu with Congressman Andre CarsonWe were able to discuss the significant amount of time and resources it takes to bring a product from discovery to market. We shared examples of how we learn from our successes and failures and take advantage of technologies as they become available to advance our science.

KYLA: I’m located at the Lilly New York office, and live in New Jersey. It was interesting to meet representatives from those states and share more about the work we’re doing. We are in the fight against cancer every day. We are dedicated to developing and delivering innovative new medicines that will make a meaningful difference to patients and doctors. Researchers like me are exploring the biology of cancer to find new ways to fight cancer, and bringing increased focus and prioritization to our approach to oncology R&D. Overall, this means we may work on fewer molecules at any given time, but we invest aggressively in the clinical development plans for molecules that we believe will have the greatest benefit for patients. 

Emily Collins and Kyla DriscollKYLA & EMILY: It was a long, tiring day but very rewarding to get to share our work with this important audience. Many people we met with shared their own stories of the impact different diseases have had on them or their families. It reinforces the need of the research we do, to make sure we can translate science into the medicines people need. We’re ready to get back to work! 

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