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Professor Nicky Best

Professor Nicky Best had been at Imperial College London since 1996 and was Professor of Statistics and Epidemiology for eight years before she made the transition into an industry role with GSK in 2014. “I moved into industry in search of a new challenge that would directly link statistical methods to the problem of interest and give me clear sight of the impact of my work. Moving into industry reinvigorated my career. Within academia you can get quite isolated within a small group of people researching a niche area.”

Nicky observes that the pharmaceutical industry is in transition itself: “The pharmaceutical industry needs curious and inquisitive people with the research-oriented mindset capable of imagining better ways of doing things, rather than simply sticking to current practices.”

Upon her transition into industry, Nicky overcame several challenges stemming from the difference between her new environment and academia: “I had support from colleagues and a positive working environment to ease my transition into GSK, but had to learn many new business skills. Both on the job and through online training, I learned about corporate process, clinical trials and the complexities of industry regulation.”

Nicky also had to refocus her priorities, away from academic research goals and funding objectives and towards GSK’s strategic goals: “Whilst GSK’s priorities are different, conference attendance and publication are still actively encouraged. So, I remain firmly in touch with fundamental research which helps support formal collaborations with academic partners” – something Nicky observes would make it easier to move back into academia if the opportunity arose. 

However, she is thankful for the current opportunities open to her: “I get all the things I enjoyed about academia alongside the industry benefits of having a constant supply of real problems to research and solve, being closer to the product, and collaborating with a larger network of statisticians and other industry experts.”