How does life as a researcher in industry differ from academia? How is it to work as clinical coordinator? What about working in sales? As a patent attorney? What can a regular day as medical writer at a big pharmaceutical company be like?
Find out by reading about professionals from different job roles, about their experiences and their daily working life.
Competency Development Specialist
Nina-Maria Vasconcelos graduated with a MSc in Chemistry in 1999, after which she worked as a researcher at Astra Draco AB during one year. She then decided to go for a PhD as Astra merged with Zeneca and underwent large reorganizations. During her PhD studies Nina-Maria also spent some time at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the US. After defending her thesis in Immunology in 2006, she moved on to a postdoc position at the University of Copenhagen, after which she got a position as Medical writer at Novo Nordisk.
Today, Nina-Maria works as a MW Specialist/Competency Development Specialist, which means she has taken on a business support function within medical writing. Her role merges responsibilities within medical writing, quality management and human resources. She helps in getting the right people onboard within medical writing and introduces and trains them, but also works with process improvement within the field, keeping herself up-to-date with external guidance and regulations, and making sure they are implemented at the company. She also develops new standard operating procedures and evaluates new tools such as computer software etc.
Jonathan Sjögren graduated with an MSc in Biotechnology Engineering at LTH in 2010, writing his Master thesis at University of California, San Diego. In 2015 Jonathan defended his thesis on Bacterial modulation of host glycosylation at Medical faulty, LU. During his PhD studies, Jonathan made an interesting scientific discovery, which in collaboration with Genovis was patented and brought to the market. This lead to Jonathan working as a research assistant at Genovis while wrapping up his PhD, a company which develops enzyme-based tools for antibody characterization.
Today, Jonathan works as a Sales director at Genovis, a role that includes a lot of customer visits for educating researchers about the company´s products, and also gain insights in what is asked for by the customers, in order to develop new products. In collaboration with customers, new applications and custom-made solutions may be tried out.
The work includes communication with persons from different areas/phases of drug development such as early research, discovery, process development, analytical development and many others.
The skills Jonathan thinks he has had most use of in his role as Sales Director, other than the specific scientific skills, are e.g. to quickly grasp new information, initiating and managing scientific collaborations, presentation skills and people skills, i.e. the ability to talk to anyone.
Anne Månssson Kvarnhammar graduated with a Master degree of Science in Chemical engineering in 2004 and obtained her PhD degree in allergy research at Lund University in 2009. She later continued her education with two postdocs at Karolinska Institutet and Novo Nordisk finishing in 2015.
Since 2015 Anne was employed as senior scientist at Novo Nordisk. However, in October this year, Novo Nordisk conducted a lay off where 500 employees in Denmark lost their jobs, including Anne. Anne thought that it was very important to share this information with the students, as that is the reality in pharma industry.
As a senior scientist, Anne does not do any bench work and her workdays mainly include planning work and meeting with lab technicians, writing study reports for regulatory submissions, supervising post-docs as well as analysing results and attending meetings with colleagues to discuss projects.
Useful experiences that can be gained during PhD studies, which could help with obtaining a senior scientist position, are writing your own papers and ethical applications, attending conferences and developing leadership skills by e.g. supervising students. An important tip from Anne is that companies such as Novo Nordisk are now mostly taking researchers with at least 1 post-doc for senior scientist positions.
Malin Järnkrants graduated with a Master degree in Biomedicine in 2003 and in 2008 she obtained a PhD degree, both at Lund University. She continued her career with a postdoc at Karolinska Institutet, which she quit shortly after as she realised that an academic career was not something she strived for.
This decision was followed by a period of unemployment, during which Malin decided to gain educational experience relevant for working in the pharmaceutical industry. With support from “Trygghetsstiftelsen” (Job Security Foundation), Malin was able to conduct a Global Trainee Program on clinical research organised by Trial Form Support (TFS) Academy in Malmö in 2008.
Since 2009, Malin has worked as Clinical Data Manager, Scientific Document Manager (2010-2013) and Medical Writer/Medical Communication Scientist (2013-2016) all at LEO Pharma in Denmark. Currently she is employed by Ferring Pharmaceuticals as a Medical Writer, where her job is to prepare regulatory documents for phase 2 and 3 trials, e.g. clinical trial protocols, informed consent documents and clinical trial reports.
For students who are interested in pursuing a career as a Medical Writer, Malin strongly recommends gaining knowledge in medical concepts and terminology and of the drug development process. Very good writing skills with attention to details and being able to manage time due to short deadlines is also to be put on the list of recommended qualities
Maria Weineisen graduated with a Master in Chemical Engineering in 1999 and then obtained her PhD in Medical Science in 2006. She started working as a Grant Manager in 2006 at Lund University, where she was responsible for applying and managing grants for a larger research group. Simultaneously she was also the director of studies for PhD students working in the research group.
After 5 years of this, Maria decided she had learnt as much as she could and decided for a career change. She applied and got into the AWAPATENT trainee program in 2011, which included being employed from day one. This trainee program trains prospective patent attorneys. As a patent attorney you meet inventors, perform novelty searches about their invention, draft patent applications, correspond with patent offices and patent attorneys as well as provide advice regarding patent strategies. You frequently use your language and writing skills, analyze information, learn about new scientific advances and meet new people. You learn something new almost every day and you become an expert in your field.