Medical Science Liaisons – or MSLs – are increasingly popular and highly sought after in the recent years by medical companies, but what exactly do these professionals do?  Generally defined as being an educator and sharing the latest clinical data with key opinion leaders (KOLs), they are demanded by a number of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical device and research organisations.

Background of successful MSL professionals

Most MSL professionals not only have a Ph.D., MD, or other graduate-level education in a science/life science related field, but they also possess at least a few years of full-time clinical experience.  MSLs usually specialise in a particular therapeutic area and have extensive scientific knowledge related to it, such as oncology, haematology, cardiology and infectious diseases, etc. 

They are highly involved in patient and clinical trial activities and are expected to be an excellent communicator and possess an outgoing and optimistic personality and a strong professional medical network.  Moreover, they must keep abreast of the latest research and new developments in their area of expertise. 

What do MSLs do?

MSLs work throughout a product’s lifecycle, helping to ensure that products are utilised effectively, and act as scientific experts and resources within the medical community. However, the primary purpose of the MSL role is to establish and maintain credible relationships with KOLs – commonly defined as physicians and healthcare professionals (HCPs) at major academic institutions and healthcare providers.  They also interact extensively with sales representatives within their own company, as well as office managers, nurses, assistants, and other internal colleagues. 

Different from the sales function, one of the major purposes of their relationship building is helping to fill in the knowledge gaps identified in the medical plan of a new drug launch.  This is because in the current digital age, KOLs are regularly bombarded by vast amounts of information of varying quality and as a result, they want MSLs who can help separate the signal from the noise, and provide relevant and valuable information.

How an MSL adds value to the company

Before a successful drug launch the medical team would identify the data gaps and insights with the support from KOLs who would share their real life day to day patient and clinical trial experience.  The insights are very important in driving the medical plan and commercial success of a business and these can include the drug safety profile, the need of a diagnostics test, which clinical guidelines the KOLs are using and how the clinical trial data are received. In short, the more knowledgeable and competent the MSL, the more credible the company will appear.  As the number of organisations who recognise their importance increases, so does the demand to hire MSLs.

Finding the right combination of skill sets with experience is essential to hiring the right MSL.  If you are an MSL professional looking for the next step in your career, or a company needing a highly skilled MSL, connect with me at Page Personnel. 

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