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Margaret Landi ’74: Bioethics and Animal Welfare

By Barbara E. Stoll '93, MA '94

As a veterinarian, Margaret Landi ’74 has always been concerned about the treatment of animals. She brings that perspective to her role as vice president and chief of animal welfare, ethics, and strategy for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the world’s largest global healthcare companies.

Landi is charged with ensuring the care, welfare, and ethical treatment of a wide variety of animals used in the research and development of GSK’s numerous pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare products, and vaccines—including development of a vaccine against the Ebola virus. “I have a great responsibility for the animals used in the discovery and the development of new treatments,” she says. “I recognize the controversial aspect of that, and my team works diligently to ensure high standards for the care, welfare, and treatment of those animals.”

Landi, who holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in bioethics to enhance her role at GSK, a new position she is the first to hold in the company. “I realized how I shaped the role would define it for the future, not only for me but also for my successors,” she explains. “My training has been in science and veterinary medicine, yet medical advances have created situations that never existed in the past. I believe that it is important for me to be educated in the relatively new field of bioethics in animal research.”

Her coursework has added a deeper dimension to her work, she says. “For instance, bioethics calls for not harming a participant and giving autonomy and justice where possible to test subjects,” she says. By becoming trained and knowledgeable in various schools of philosophy and different approaches to ethical questions, Landi says she is able to move discussions about animal care from a utilitarian approach to one focused on moral considerations.

Noting that she hopes to earn her degree in bioethics in 2017—36 years after receiving her William Paterson degree in biology—Landi credits the late biology professor John Rosengren with being a mentor and helping her develop a sense of curiosity. “He taught me to look for answers in unusual places,” she recalls. “People who work in research are really looking for alternatives, different ways to ask questions that need to be answered, and are driven to improve the health of humans and animals.”

Those questions have also become personal for Landi. Diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatic, a rare form of arthritis for which the only treatment is steroids, she has joined a clinical trial at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York that is testing a different approach. “While I hope to benefit from the drug being tested, I realize this trial is about the possibility of finding new treatments for others,” she says. “It is a fascinating experience being involved in a clinical trial after working on the preclinical side for so many years.”

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