Have you ever wondered if the scientists you see in movies that are racing against the clock to prevent a deadly disease breakout actually exist?
All over the world, at every minute of every day, real people are protecting us from killer viruses, monitoring how healthy our cities are, and diving into our genes to discover the secret of a next generation of medicines.
But the UK is at serious risk of falling behind, as massive skills shortages threaten some of the world's most cutting-edge and jobs.
Recent research from the ABPI shows that the UK is 'facing a major skills shortage which threatens to undermine the research and development of new medicines.' New data from the Medicines Manufacturing Industrial Partnership (MMIP) shows the country would need more than 400 extra skilled staff over the next two years to match the growth of the advanced therapies drugs sector.
What do these scientists face day-to-day, what disasters do they avert, and what breakthroughs do they make? And, if we fancied the challenge, how do we land a job like theirs?
Epidemiologists After the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa in 2014, it was the job of disease epidemiologists to track where the disease appeared. Diseases never sleep, so even when there aren't outbreaks of deadly viruses we still need disease epidemiologists to keep a constant eye on hot-spots in case another epidemic occurs.
Epidemiologists need science and maths A-levels and an undergraduate degree in life sciences (e.g. biomedical sciences, biology, microbiology or biochemistry) before they can start a work-place based training programme or PhD. Typical salaries start anywhere from £22,000 to £30,500, depending on whether you're working in the public or private sector.
Clinical pharmacologist Clinical pharmacologists explain how medicines work in humans. Their work in clinical research laboratories turns cutting-edge drug discovery into new medicines, and makes sure they're safe for patients to use.
It's one of the most at-risk jobs for skills shortages in the UK. You'll need A-levels in relevant subjects then an medical degree and postgraduate qualifications. While studying for postgraduate qualifications you could earn about £14,000. Starting salaries increase to at least £25,000 once graduated. Some people become clinical pharmacologists through other routes having had careers in undergraduate teaching, or research or in the pharmaceutical industry.
Bioinformaticians With the medical advances made over the last 10 years we've got a huge amount of data to help us better treat diseases and find the next generation of cures. It's a bioinformatician's job to design ways for us to understand complex information and find new medicines that might be right under our noses.
This role requires at least a Master's degree in bioinformatics with systems biology. To get a place on a course you'll need an undergraduate degree and A-levels in relevant science subjects. Salaries for qualified research scientists start at £25,000.
Geneticist Genomic scientists are pioneers on the forefront of medical innovation, exploring the genetic code of patients to find abnormalities that cause disease specifically target illness-causing errors in our genes.
If you've got a good biology degree you can join the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP); trainee geneticists get lab experience and can expect to get paid in Band 6, at around £26,000.
Data miners Data miners or data analysts are in huge demand across all sectors, none more so than in healthcare and pharma, where they use data to predict what might happen in the future and help researchers develop life-saving treatments and build the next generation of health technology products.
You'll need a first degree in economics or computer science, following A-levels in maths and IT. You can expect to start with a salary of £24,000 at entry level, but with a Master's degree in data analysis this could be £30,000, rising to 35,000 after a few years' experience.
If Hollywood's to be believed, toxicologists spend their work day locked in a morgue taking samples from the recently deceased and working out what killed them in the first place. But in real life, the jeopardy and complexity of what they do every day is far more heroic. Their job is to prove a medicine is safe and effective to ensure the upmost safety for patients.
It's another job where skills are urgently needed in the UK according to the ABPI's skills report. After good science A-levels you can look to do a general biology, biomedical, or a veterinary medicine undergraduate degree followed by postgraduate qualifications and career-specific training. Starting salaries for graduate toxicologists in the private sector industry range from £20,000 to £30,000.
Salary details taken from Prospects.ac.uk. Find out more about careers in the pharmaceutical industry at our one-stop-shop for A-level results day and Clearing 2017 here.