Editorial Article: Steve Rees OBE: A visionary in pharmaceutical discovery and collaboration

From groundbreaking research to global impact: The contributions of Steve Rees to scientific advancement and worldwide healthcare

05 Jun 2023

Steve Rees OBE, Vice President of Discovery Biology at AstraZeneca

Steve Rees, Vice President of Discovery Biology at AstraZeneca, has made notable contributions to the pharmaceutical industry through his commitment to innovation, collaboration, and exceptional leadership. Throughout his career, he has been a driving force for innovation in pharmaceutical research. 

After obtaining a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Bath, Rees embarked on a remarkable journey at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where he dedicated 24 years of his career. During his tenure at GSK, Rees held various research-focused roles, including the prestigious position of Director of Screening and Compound Profiling. His work in target screening, high-throughput assays, and cell signaling made significant contributions to the field of drug discovery.

In 2011, Rees joined AstraZeneca and began a transformative chapter in his career. Rees’ leadership abilities shone through as he progressively assumed greater responsibilities. Initially leading the Screening Sciences Department, he was accountable for compound management, hit discovery, and lead optimization biology. His exceptional performance led to his appointment as the Leader of Discovery Biology, overseeing a diverse global research department responsible for reagent generation, assay development, chemical biology, target identification, and target validation capabilities.

Rees’ unwavering dedication to advancing human health has led him to emphasize the power of collaboration and partnership in driving scientific progress. Under Rees' guidance, AstraZeneca's Discovery Biology division has achieved remarkable advancements in pharmaceutical research. By fostering an environment of scientific excellence, Rees has encouraged innovation and embraced interdisciplinary collaboration. This approach has facilitated breakthrough discoveries and transformative solutions for complex diseases.

Rees’ strategic vision and unwavering dedication played a vital role in ringing new therapies to patients in need. Recognizing the urgency of finding effective treatments and vaccines during the COVID pandemic, he played a pivotal role in guiding efforts to combat the global health crisis and ensured the development and distribution of life-saving solutions worldwide.

The pinnacle of Rees’ career came in 2021 when he was honored on The Queen's Birthday Honours List. He was awarded an OBE in recognition of his outstanding service during the COVID pandemic. Rees’ reflections on receiving the OBE highlighted the importance of collaboration, the delicate balance between perfection and time constraints, and the significance of developing networks in drug discovery.

Rees excels at fostering collaborations with academic institutions, research organizations, and industry partners, recognizing the collective power of shared knowledge and expertise. His inclusive and collaborative approach has propelled scientific discovery, leading to significant advancements and improved outcomes for patients worldwide. His contributions have redefined the landscape of pharmaceutical discovery, inspiring scientists, and industry professionals alike.

SelectScience® CEO, Kerry Parker, spoke to Rees to learn more about his incredible journey and to discover his vision for the future. Listen to the first episode of our new podcast series, ‘The Accelerating Science Podcast by SelectScience’, to explore the realities of working in pharma, the incredible potential of CRISPR technology in therapeutics, and why AI is poised to revolutionize this field of science. Don't miss the opportunity to gain valuable insights from an industry leader who has harnessed the power of both innovation and communication to create a lasting impact.

Listen to the podcast: CRISPR, AI and how to be successful in pharma: Steve Rees, AstraZeneca