11 February 2022
Science is fundamental to advancing knowledge and health. At BAT, we are proud of the world-class scientists who are helping us to understand how we can innovate and use science to build A Better TomorrowTM and reduce the health impact of our business. This important and challenging mission, rooted in Tobacco Harm Reduction, requires great skill, resilience, and dedication. Qualities that Dr Sharon Goodall, our Group Head of Regulatory Science, has in abundance. An accomplished scientist, global leader, mother of two, and former solider, it’s no surprise that we turned to Sharon to help BAT celebrate the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science and to inspire others. We caught up with Sharon to find out more about her career, motivation, and her advice for those seeking a fulfilling career in science and innovation.
Sharon joined BAT in 2009 and since joining has played a key role in BAT’s transformation, helping the business transition from a traditional tobacco company to a science and innovation-focused enterprise of the future, with harm reduction and sustainability at its core.
“The journey we are on is so exciting, as we are constantly evolving and adapting to consumer needs but also where the science is taking us,” says Sharon, who holds a PhD in food science and engineering. “We have an exciting mix of talent at our global Research & Development hub in Southampton and you never know who you are going to bump into — it could be a product developer who joined us from Apple or an engineer from Dyson!
“The facilities are home to around 400 R&D experts who all bring unique skills and insights to our Tobacco Harm Reduction work. We are all working towards a shared goal of reducing the health impact of our business.”
Developing and scientifically testing reduced-risk* products, such as vapour products, tobacco heating products, and modern oral nicotine pouches, has its challenges and regulations and standards can vary around the world. BAT has long demonstrated its commitment to quality and invests nearly £350 million a year in R&D to support these New Category products. “The consumer is at the heart of everything we do and it’s all about offering them choices,” says Sharon. “Adult smokers need to know what their options are and be reassured that alternative tobacco and nicotine products are reduced-risk* compared to cigarettes and backed by solid science — that’s where my team comes in. We are continuing to build scientific data packages to support our New Category products and we share our science in peer-reviewed publications, on our dedicated science website (Bat-science.com), and we engage with regulators.”
Proactively sharing BAT’s scientific research is something Sharon is very passionate about, and she regularly presents at events such as the Global Forum on Nicotine and the Scientific Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction. “It’s all about getting out there. Sharing, discussing and debating our research,” says Sharon. “I love engaging with people from around the world and sharing our work with them — it gives me such a buzz and I know it’s helping to make a difference.”
With a military background that has seen her deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Sharon is no stranger to operating in difficult environments and varied cultures. It is something that she has valued about BAT. “It’s one thing for a company to say it is committed to diversity and inclusion, but it’s quite another to show it every day,” says Sharon. We have more than 45 different nationalities across our R&D teams and a great mix of genders, backgrounds, and skills. Every day provides an opportunity to learn something and benefit from the experience of those working alongside you. It’s a very exciting time to be a scientist at BAT!”
Having spent two years working in North Carolina at BAT’s US subsidiary, Reynolds American, Sharon knows how challenging the US regulatory space can be, and how crucial it is to collaborate and innovate. “One of the things I hope to maintain is the robust resilience they have at Reynolds American,” she says. “Due to the presence and rigour of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are in a continual pursuit of excellence in everything they do. They are very technically curious people so my time at Reynolds American was a real exercise for the brain and I loved it. Plus, the friendships and the extension of the BAT family has been hugely rewarding.”
A significant milestone for Tobacco Harm Reduction was achieved in October 2021, when the FDA made an historic decision by granting the first ever marketing authorisation for a vapour product under its Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process for Vuse Solo product in Original flavour. This was a big moment for scientists like Sharon who had been working in the harm reduction space for more than a decade. “It’s hard to explain how much work goes into something like this,” says Sharon. “I’m so proud of everyone who contributed to this amazing achievement, it underscores years of scientific study and research, and it lays the foundations for the pipeline of products that followed Vuse Solo.”
In addition to delivering world-class science, mentoring and coaching colleagues is also a key part of Sharon’s global leadership role, and she invests time and energy in helping others advance their careers. “My advice to anyone considering a career in any STEM subject is to go for it and say yes to new opportunities — you never know where it may take you. It’s all about learning from each other and expanding our skillsets and ways of thinking. The more diverse teams are, the more innovative they can be.”
Find out more about Women in STEM at BAT here.
*Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive.
Our products as sold in the US, including Vuse, Velo, Grizzly, Kodiak, and Camel Snus, are subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation and no reduced-risk claims will be made as to these products without FDA clearance.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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