The ability to help our customers to solve their scientific problems and to enhance the probability that their drug will make it to market is very gratifying. To see a drug molecule being used to treat patients after you have had a direct influence on its development is immensely satisfying.
What route have you taken to get to your current position?
After completing the lab based portion of my PhD I immediately started working as a temporary chemist at the SAFC contract manufacturing site in Manchester whilst I wrote my thesis. I was offered a permanent position after four months and worked for two years directly applying the knowledge I had gained during my PhD to develop synthetic procedures suitable for the GMP production of drug molecules.
After these two years I accepted an opportunity to move to a different area within the organisation (Pharmorphix) focused on research to improve the properties of drug molecules. This was a complete change from the work that I had been doing during my PhD, although I was still focused on organic small molecules. For two years I worked as a scientist on solid state chemistry projects, such as salt and polymorph screening, before being promoted to a project leader.
After a year of project management, an opportunity arose to gain experience in the business side of the organisation, developing relationships to bring in revenue for the site. My initial focus was on the west coast of America but over the course of the following year my territory grew to cover the whole of the US. Earlier this year I was promoted to my current position where I manage all the sales for Pharmorphix in North America, where I work closely with colleagues in the wider organisation to bring in business. Towards the end of 2012 I will be moving to the San Diego area in order to continue to develop my role and the relationships with our key accounts.
What does this position involve?
We are a contract research organisation and we offer services to improve the probability that drug molecules will be approved by the regulatory bodies in order to be sold commercially. My role is to visit customers all over the USA to discuss their current drug pipeline and to identify how we can help them to improve their drug candidates.
I write proposals for our customers outlining the work we propose to undertake on their behalf and conduct negotiations on the pricing structure.
I train other people within the organisation about the work that we do and how we can help our customers as well as how to identify potential customers through an understanding of the drug development process.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to travel all over the US in order to visit our customers and this means that I get to see many places that I would not otherwise visit. The ability to help our customers to solve their scientific problems and to enhance the probability that their drug will make it to market is very gratifying. To see a drug molecule being used to treat patients after you have had a direct influence on its development is immensely satisfying.
What did you most enjoy about your course?
The freedom to take my research project in the direction in which I chose and the independence to make my own decisions, and mistakes, was not only very enjoyable but also extremely helpful training for a career in science.
I also enjoyed working as part of a close research group with like-minded individuals who made life enjoyable both inside and outside the department.
What skills/knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Scientific knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving are key attributes in any science based discipline and a PhD is the perfect environment in which to develop these skills.
Very often we have significant amounts of data to review and interpret in order to understand what the underlying factors are in the poor results obtained for their drug molecules. The ability to identify the pertinent scientific data through logical review and to design experiments to test your hypothesis is as applicable to my role today as they were when I learnt them during my PhD.
What advice would you give to students applying for the same course that you took?
Although there may be days, perhaps weeks, of failure try to keep working hard because in research, as in life, there is no substitute for leg work but when you finally get the breakthrough the high is worth every hour!
A PhD in chemistry can open a large number of doors, not just those that are obvious, always keep your mind open to new opportunities – I never dreamt I would be doing my current job when I started at Manchester!