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Careers in making medicines can take many forms.
“Drug discovery doesn't only happen in the pharmaceutical industry. It happens in academia, small biotech companies, and government,” says Fiona Randall, head of external innovation at Eisai Andover Innovative Medicines Institute.
This workshop provides an overview of career opportunities in making medicines. Through panelists’ personal stories, hear how basic science can inform drug discovery programs that lead to new medicines.
Watch the recording above, and read on for a preview of their varied career paths and advice for scientists thinking about transitioning to industry.
Her role: director of biology at Tiaki Therapeutics.
On pursuing a career in industry: “How I've gotten to where I am today really comes down to selecting the right mentors, always being willing to collaborate, taking calculated risks, and identifying opportunities.”
His role: postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery and cofounder of Adarga Pharmaceuticals.
On the opportunities academic drug discovery affords: “The type of science you do can be basic — you can publish your findings — but you can work closely with industry and have access to the resources and expertise industry offers. You can work on clinical drug candidates that move into the clinic and potentially be involved in actually moving them to the market place.”
His role: vice president of clinical development at Mission Therapeutics.
On succeeding at a small biotech company: “At a small company, it's important to communicate all the lessons you learn from your lead project to benefit other projects. It might sound strange that it can be challenging to communicate at a small company, but things move so fast, it's important to stop and take stock every now and again.”
Her role: vice president of research and development at Aldeyra Therapeutics.
On building her career path: “When I did my PhD, I thought neuroscience was interesting, so I researched signal transduction. I wanted to build on signal transduction, so I went into oncology signal transduction. From there I wanted to think more about the business side of industry and drug discovery. I always felt like I was so busy at the bench I never had time to think broadly, and I wanted to be able to think broadly about science.”
Her role: senior vice president of pharmacology and translational sciences at Arkuda Therapeutics.
On the benefits of risk-taking: “I planned to stay in academia, but meeting patients changed that. I moved to pharmacology, and then to toxicology, which is a bit like moving from academia to pharma. If I had stayed in pharmacology, I probably would have gotten a promotion, but in the long run I felt moving was going to be to my advantage. When I felt I had enough experience, I moved to a small company. We're a small company on seed money, and it's what I always wanted to do.”
*This event was moderated by Fiona Randall, head of external innovation at Eisai AiM Institute.
Fiona Randall, PhD
Fiona Randall is head of external innovation at Eisai AiM Institute, where she manages preclinical drug discovery partnerships with external groups and Eisai researchers. A British neuroscientist and electrophysiologist, she has worldwide drug discovery experience — including in the United Kingdom, Japan, China, and the United States. She trained in molecular biology in Edinburgh, going on to earn her PhD in neuroscience in Newcastle, United Kingdom, before doing a postdoctoral position in Okinawa, Japan. She moved to Shanghai to work in preclinical drug discovery for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), joining Eisai Electrophysiology Group in the United Kingdom in 2012 before moving her lab to the United States in 2014. Since then, she has worked on an array of global drug discovery projects and built an alliance management function at Eisai to facilitate collaboration. She is the United States leader on the Eisai Neurology Global Open Innovation Team and sits on the Eisai AiM Institute’s scientific and operational leadership team, which focuses on using human genetics to guide drug discovery for dementias.
Lauren Martens, PhD
Lauren Martens is director of biology at Tiaki Therapeutics, which focuses on microglial biology and targets to develop disease-modifying therapeutics for age-related dementias. She joined the Dementia Discovery Fund (DDF) in September 2016 to advance the seed stage, DDF-founded Tiaki Therapeutics. Prior to joining the DDF, she was a member of the discovery team at FORUM Pharmaceuticals. She received her BS in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from the University of New Hampshire. Her interest in neurodegenerative disease research was incited as a research associate in Dr. Bradley T. Hyman’s lab at the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease. She went on to receive her PhD from the University of California, San Francisco at the Gladstone Institutes, where she studied progranulin-deficient frontotemporal dementia as part of the academic consortium funded by the Bluefield Project.
Michael Nedelcovych, PhD
Michael Nedelcovych is cofounder of Adarga Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development of novel treatments to improve the safety and efficacy of molecular radiotherapy in prostate cancer. He is also a neurology postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery. His main academic research interests lie in developing new drug treatments for neurological disorders and cancer. He received his BS in neuroscience from the College of William & Mary and his PhD in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University. He has also served as an analyst for Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and as a scientific consultant for several biotech companies.
Paul Thompson, PhD
Paul Thompson is vice president of clinical development at Mission Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. He has an MBiochem from the University of Oxford and a PhD in cell biology from University College London. He has more than 15 years of experience in translational and clinical research within pharma (GSK, Ono Pharma) and biotech (Mission Therapeutics) companies, focusing predominantly on neurological and mitochondrial disorders.
Susan Macdonald, PhD
Susan Macdonald is vice president of research and development at Aldeyra Therapeutics. She previously was director of R&D strategy and portfolio and project management at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and senior director of program management at NKT Therapeutics. Her main research interests lie in inflammation, including neuroinflammation, and oncology. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and her PhD in physiology from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She completed her postdoctoral training at Onyx Pharmaceuticals.
Toni Williamson, PhD
Toni Williamson is senior vice president of pharmacology and translational sciences at Arkuda Therapeutics. She was previously senior director of nonclinical research at Flexion Therapeutics, and before that held positions at Trophos, Merck, and Amgen. Her main research interests lie in drug discovery and development for neuroscience therapeutics, including for neurodegeneration, pain, and psychiatry. She received her undergraduate degree in biochemistry and physiology from the University of Reading and her PhD in developmental neurobiology from King’s College London. She completed her postdoctoral training with Don Cleveland at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California, San Diego.