Success in Life Sciences Localization; 
Training, tools, and subject matter expertise


Mark Shriner

Mark Shriner is the strategic sales director for memoQ, leading the company’s market growth in the regulated industries. He has previously worked in several leadership roles in the localization industry including CEO Asia Pacific for CLS Communication.


Mark Shriner

Mark Shriner is the Strategic Sales Director for memoQ, leading the company’s market growth in the regulated industries. He has previously worked in several leadership roles in the localization industry including CEO Asia Pacific for CLS Communication.

Welcome back to The Lab where take a look at what’s cooking in life sciences localization.

Due to the rapid growth of the medical device, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, there’s been an explosion of content output from these industries — and that content often requires localization. Many language service providers (LSPs), project managers, and linguists view life sciences localization as an attractive market. That said, there are some unique challenges for highquality and competitive life sciences translation services.

To understand these challenges (and their solutions), we’ve asked several industry experts to share their advice and provide some examples of best practices or “secrets to success” for this fast-growing yet challenging industry. Our experts come from a variety of backgrounds and organizations including academia, business development, and leadership roles for LSPs and technology companies, just to name a few.

Given their diverse backgrounds and experience, their advice and order of priorities vary to a degree. And while all of our experts agreed that quality is critically important for life sciences translation, opinions often differed as to how individuals and companies should prepare for, assure, and deliver quality. Some touted individual training while others emphasized well-defined processes, tools, or quality sourcing methods.

For example, Max Troyer, associate professor and program chair at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, suggested that project managers in life sciences or health care should learn as much as possible about talent and quality management.

“Project managers need to ensure the talent they place on jobs have the experience and training in these fields, and they need to be prepared to pay a premium for subject matter experts who are uniquely qualified to provide the final quality assurance,” he said.

Alessio Demartis agreed that paying a premium for qualified subject-matter experts is a good investment. Having worked in a variety of roles in the localization industry, he believes that companies should invest in subject-matter experts to ensure quality and expand their knowledge base. 

“If you are just starting off in the medical field, invest in paying specialists such virologists and gastroenterologists, or senior translators for their reviewing services,” Demartis said.

He recognizes that cost can be an issue. But “even if you just break even … the knowledge you gain will be well worth it. And if you are using a CAT tool with access to a translation memory and term base, the knowledge can be leveraged on future projects.”

Lara Tossoni, chief revenue officer for life-sciences LSP MEINRAD, agrees that sourcing for quality is important but also stresses the importance of a solid in-country review processes. She further advised companies to provide glossaries, style guides, and a well-defined workflow to reduce costs, time requirements, and errors.

To optimize the review process, Tossoni said it’s important to set these guidelines so reviewers are fully aware of what is expected.

For individual development, everyone agreed that training, whether from formal education or from on-the-job opportunities, is essential.

“Life sciences is a highly technical and specialized field, [requiring] a good understanding of the industry and regulatory and compliance requirements both at national and regional level,” said Christophe Djaouani, CEO of Toppan Digital Language.

Djaouani also recommended that newcomers start their training and areas of focus on non-critical areas to reduce the likelihood of significant issues.

“If completely new to the field, training is highly recommended and should be focused on a limited number of therapeutic areas or devices,” he said. “A gradual phasing in of new content based on levels of risk is recommended. Start with low-risk content such as marketing, then moving to non-critical documents, to eventually focusing on critical or high risk-content.”

In terms of formal education, Troyer said that individuals who are still in school should consider minoring in a science field or healthcare for familiarity with the topics they’ll be working on. However, if they’re already employed, joining a professional organization or attending conferences can also be a beneficial experience, he said.

“Continuous professional development is essential as the field of life sciences is constantly facing innovation; therefore, translators need to keep up with the latest changes and updates within the industry,” Tossoni said. “Translators can attend their choice of online courses, webinars, and discussion forums to acquire new knowledge, or participate in seminars and conferences hosted by hospitals, technical schools, or life-science organizations.”

She also recommended translators check in with the LSP they work with to see if they might offer any educational opportunities.

As a related example, Toppan Digital Language provides a specialized training curriculum to support the onboarding of new project managers, business development managers, and linguists and also provides ongoing training to ensure that all operating processes and references are in tune with regulatory requirements.

“As part of our quality-assurance program, our language production teams manage a development program that focuses on life-sciences industry terminology and content requirements,” Djaouani said. “This interaction with our senior team members helps to accelerate and maintain a high degree of specialization across our production teams.”

Demartis said translators in life sciences generally have an easier time translating documents that are created for patients compared to manuals designed to help surgeons operate a medical device. He believes that it is important to read a lot of content targeted at the medical community and use parallel texts when translating.

While the decision to use the appropriate tools is a no-brainer for anyone involved with life-sciences localization, it should be remembered that especially with translation memories and glossaries, the quality of the output is only as good as the quality of the input. As Troyer said, “Glossary management can really go a long way in helping language professionals use the correct terminology.”

To help keep abreast of new terminology and the latest trends in life sciences, our experts recommended joining industry associations and using forums on sites such as ProZ and Translators Café, while leveraging the various regulatory agencies such as the ema, FDA, mEDRA, Cosnautas, and European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and Healthcare (EDQM) which all provide translation guidance and glossaries for translators.

Djaouani said it’s important to follow guidance issued by regulators. “Key resources are vital to stay abreast of linguistic changes and prescribed wording by regulators such as the latest qrd template review issued by the ema for product information,” he noted.

Demartis pointed out that the best resources for translators often depends on where they are located.

“When I was translating in the medical field, I was based in Spain, and I would participate in events organized by Tremédica, the main national association for translators and reviewers working in the medical domain,” he said. “For translators, these events are often a win-win as you can learn about new products, trends, and jargon, and possibly make a few new customers.”

Industry experts all agree that any individual or organization looking for success in life-sciences localization should invest in subject matter and regulatory training, experienced smes for translation and review, and a well-maintained translation and terminology tool. Furthermore, it is highly recommended to participate in industry events, join online forums, and keep up to date on new regulations and guidance issued by the relevant regulatory agencies.

An LSP Perspective

By MEINRAD Chief Revenue Officer Lara Tossoni

Medical translations are particularly sensitive because translation errors can have serious consequences for the safety of users or patients. Following strict guidelines such as those included in ISO 17100 and ISO 13485 can really help maintain quality.

Communication is critically important across all aspects of any life-sciences translation project. For starters, customers should provide as much information as they can prior to project start, including deadlines, target audience, reference materials, terminology preferences. It’s also important that linguists and vendors ask questions in case of any uncertainties.

LSPs need to make their translators aware that errors in texts, or their translations, can have serious legal consequences and should only use reliable and well-trained translators with expertise in the specific sector related to the content. For many of our customers with life-sciences content, we agree to use the same translators for each project to ensure consistency and the appropriate style across all document types.

Lastly, at the end of each step in the translation process, we run manual and/ or automated quality-assurance checks to ensure that all guidance for translation memories terminology were followed and that all spelling and other errors are corrected. At the conclusion of each project, we exchange feedback with our customer so we can improve the quality, the process, and communications.



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