The Many Responsibilities of Medical Science Liaisons

Josh Pirtle
Feb 9, 2021

Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) have to wear many hats. Their best known and arguably most important role is to build and maintain collaborative relationships with key opinion leaders, become trusted scientific peers and the go-to person for any scientific or medical questions a healthcare provider (HCP) might have about the company’s product.

But that is not all MSLs are tasked with. In this blog we are summarizing other roles and responsibilities MSLs often take on as part of their jobs.

Scientific Communication

Scientific Communication is another core activity of MSLs. This can take the form of communicating to external stakeholders, e.g. at congresses or symposia as well as internal scientific communication, e.g. contributing to the training materials for the sales team. Other internal stakeholders that might draw on an MSLs expertise are key account managers (KAMs) as well as the public and investor relations groups that rely on MSLs for the scientific content of any communication they publish. 

MSLs are also tasked with developing and managing publication programs, responses to product inquiries and to review and approve the scientific content of promotional materials. 

Information Gathering

As scientific experts MSLs are uniquely qualified and placed to gather, analyse and report on the activities of competitors. Presentation at scientific conferences or other events where competitors share data are prime opportunities for MSLs to get a better idea of what the competition is up to. Combined with reading scientific literature and following competitors online MSLs can develop a good understanding of the competitive landscape in general and a specific competitor’s current status and strategy for the future.

Another source of valuable information comes in form of real-world data (RWD). These observational data which are obtained by healthcare providers during their clinical practice are becoming increasingly important for pharmaceutical companies. MSLs are ideally placed to obtain RWD with HCPs and to report back to their companies. RWD are critical for companies as they can inform development work on new drugs, provide necessary data and evidence to payers and can support marketing efforts, by e.g. helping to differentiate a product in the market. 

Clinical Trials Support

While a MSLs tend to get involved during Phase III trials or registration and launch activities, they are nevertheless well positioned to add value to planning and conducting clinical trials. They can call on the network of KOLs to identify potential centers and investigators for clinical trials. Their experience working with medical experts helps MSLs understand their needs and requirements which helps them to create truly mutually beneficial and productive relationships between the clinical investigators and the sponsoring company.

MSLs are also ideally placed to work with and support clinical studies based on their deep understanding of the market dynamics and unmet needs and can play an active role in the clinical development program through clinical trial site interactions.

Even in the early stages of drug discovery and development MSLs can play a key role by drawing on their network of experts to identify partners for research activities.

Informing Strategic Direction

Continuous exchange with HCPs and KOLs means that MSLs develop deep expertise about topics like disease state, unmet medical needs and the value proposition of different products. As such MSLs can contribute to product and overall medical strategy and tactical plans.

Given the broad array of roles and responsibilities MSLs take on throughout product development and after launch, as well as the many other departments – from clinical development to commercial – they interact with on an ongoing basis means that MSLs need to be excellent communicators and coordinators. And while coordination is important, there is that fine line that MSLs can’t cross: the line between medical and commercial (for more info please read our blog MSL Conduct Do’s and Don’ts).

An additional risk is that MSLs become involved in too many activities distracting them from their core role of KOL engagement and management. A risk companies have to be careful to avoid.