Industry is a lot less mercenary than I expected. People genuinely want to help patients. To be honest, I thought the ‘brainiacs’ all came from an academic background but you soon realise this isn't true. My colleagues are dynamic, driven and incredibly bright.
Dr Graham Neill followed a traditional academic career path to become a non-clinical lecturer in a London medical school. In 2013, he transferred into industry mid-career and is now a Senior Medical Science Liaison working at the clinical interface between researchers and patients with Sanofi Genzyme, a division of the Sanofi global pharmaceutical company.
Graham took his PhD in Oncology and Cancer Biology at the Institute of Cancer Research, University of London. He then worked his way through a post doctorate and junior lectureship at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary University of London, before gaining a non-clinical lectureship at the same institution.
As a non-clinical lecturer, 95% of Graham’s time involved working with his research group and writing grants and he couldn't see his research interests gaining much further ground within academia. He explains: “I had progressed quite well up to that point, but my career was starting to flat line a little. I was struggling to get the results I needed to complete papers and get big grants. I had trouble pitching our research story to make it stand out."
Graham reassessed his career and transitioned to industry as a Scientific Advisor for Sanofi in 2013. Originally within the oncology therapeutic area, He found his knowledge of cancer biology to be by far his greatest asset, but he also made good use of his presenting and interpersonal skills. Graham also believes one of the reasons he was offered the position was because he had established collaborations with leaders in the field of cancer biology.
Graham has since moved into the immunology therapy area where he is now Senior Medical Science Liaison. Working mainly in dermatology, his previous experience as a skin cancer research scientist has again been beneficial to his current role.
Graham's new role in industry is mainly at the clinical interface. A central aspect of his work focuses on supporting clinical trials, but with no formal training Graham had to learn fast by reading books on trial design and by engaging with experts. He explains: “I did get training in cancer therapeutics and had no trouble understanding the biology, but had to learn about treatment pathways and industry guidelines. In my academic research, everything was lab-based and pre-clinical; now, it's very patient focused and clinically driven.”
Explore a timeline of Graham's career