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International Women’s Day 2023

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This International Woman’s Day, we hear from some of LifeArc’s incredible women who are paving the way as leaders in innovation.

Here are the golden nuggets of advice they would give to their younger selves about starting out and moving up in their careers, juggling work and family responsibilities, transitioning into new roles, and assuming leadership positions.

Melanie Lee CBE – Chief Executive Officer

Melanie has been CEO of LifeArc since 2019. From a young age, she was intrigued by the possibilities of science to improve lives and knew she wanted to be a top scientist.

She has previously been Chief Scientific Officer at BTG, and held senior positions at GSK, Celltech and UCB. She has held non-executive director positions as Lundbeck and Sanofi and Trustee roles at Cancer Research Technology, Cancer Research UK, and is a current Trustee with the UK Dementia Research Institutes. She has two sons and one granddaughter.

This is the advice she lives by:

“Set goals for yourself so you can articulate them when under pressure. Be brave and prepared to step into the unknown – if an opportunity attracts you – give it a go – a bit of adrenaline is a good thing and stimulates creativity, bravery and personal development.”

Anji Miller – Senior Business Manager

Anji is a Senior Business Manager with the Technology Transfer team. She manages a large portfolio of projects from LifeArc’s Philanthropic Fund, which supports projects in rare disease research. She is also the skills lead for the Innovation Hubs for Gene Therapies and leads the Gene Therapy Innovation Fund.

A seasoned tech transfer professional, Anji heads up both the AUTM and LifeArc Fellowship programmes. An EDI in STEM advocate, she directs all technology transfer skills activity and translational STEM outreach programmes. She is an active participant in LifeArc’s policy engagement.

After being awarded her PhD in cancer gene therapy at Imperial College, and with more than seven years of scientific experience under her belt, Anji decided to move away from the bench and build on her existing skills. Back then there were no identifiable role models or clear paths into the technology transfer profession from the lab, so she had to navigate her way into the profession by gaining a masters degree in Intellectual Property and part qualification as a patent and trademark attorney.

Her advice to anyone at the start of their career is this:

“Be open minded to possibilities and believe in your own abilities . . . take that leap and enjoy the ride.”

Anna Tomlinson – Chief Communications Officer

Anna Tomlinson, at graduation and today

Last year, Anna became LifeArc’s first Chief Communications Officer in 2022. Following her undergraduate degree at Cambridge University, she started her career in banking with Credit Suisse First Boston before moving into communications, and since then, her career has taken her through a number of sectors, including banking and healthcare.

Prior to LifeArc she held roles as Global Communications Director at Aetna (now CVS), and Chief Communications Officer at Genomics England. She lives in the Oxfordshire countryside with her husband and two teenage daughters. Family is enormously important to Anna, and together they love to travel and explore the world together.

“I have 3 pieces of advice – the first is never give up, try again and again… there’s almost always a solution.

And the second is always over-deliver. If you’re asked too grow one apple tree, grow two – and then write a plan to grow an orchard.

Finally, the third is never turn down an opportunity to try something new, no matter how obscure it may seem. You never know where it may lead – we can’t foresee our paths in lifee and we rarely end up exactly where we planned, so never dismiss a new path without trying it first – at the very least you’ll learn something new.”

Clare Terlouw – Head of LifeArc Ventures

Clare is responsible for LifeArc’s investments across the life sciences sector, where she seeks to generate positive impact for patients and deliver financial returns by investing in early translational sciences and technologies.

Clare is a board member of the BIA and of several venture backed companies. She has over 20 years of biotech and healthcare financing experience, gained at Syncona, Numis Securities and Nomura.

However, before she made the move into finance, Clare was a physiotherapist in Nova Scotia, Canada. On changing career direction, she has this advice:

“Follow what interests you, keeps you motivated and challenged. Take a risk and don’t wait for someone to tell you that you can do it. If you want to do it, then give yourself permission to try. You might fail, but you might succeed!”

Clare has two children aged 14 and 12.

Karen Skinner – Chief Project and Portfolio Officer

Karen Skinner, in the lab at 26 and today
A younger Karen is conducting an experiment exploring the biological mechanisms behind learning and memory as part of an Alzheimer’s Disease research programme.

Karen is responsible for shaping and leading our portfolio of Translational Challenges.

After a DPhil in Pharmacology from the University of Oxford, Karen began her R&D career within the pharmaceutical industry, where she gained a strong grounding in drug discovery.

One of her early roles was as an electrophysiologist in Merck’s Biology Department. This is her advice to all women in leadership roles:

“All leaders, but particularly female leaders, have a key role to play in speaking up to encourage and support women starting out in their careers.  In doing so we create a ripple effect of positive change, both in individual lives and in society as a whole.”

Karen and her husband live in North London and have two daughters, aged 15 and 11.

Nicole Mathon – Associate Director of LifeArc’s Opportunities Assessment Group

Nicole Mathon, on receiving her PhD and today

Nicole’s team provides scientific due diligence and landscaping which enables LifeArc to identify and select the opportunities that are most likely to deliver patient impact.

After a degree in biochemistry from Oxford University and a PhD in cell biology at UCL, she spent her early career as a scientist with GSK before moving into various roles in technology transfer and then establishing and building the Opportunities Assessment Group for LifeArc. She has two children and urges everyone to find their own personal balance of family and career commitment.

“Finding the right balance is never easy – you need to be adaptable and commit to finding your own strategies to meet your personal priorities. Surround yourself with good people, inside and outside of work, and consider flexible ways of working. You’ll know when you’ve got it right – you, your family and your work will all gain.”

Preeti Bakrania – Head of Biologics Discovery and Development

Preeti as a student, and today

Preeti leads LifeArc’s research into the development of therapeutic antibodies. She has worked on a number of innovations and is a named inventor on four patents. She was also a Board Observer for DJS antibodies which was recently acquired by Abbvie.

After completing her PhD at the National Institute of Medical Research, she was a postdoc fellow at UCL, University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford before joining LifeArc’s labs.

Preeti is the youngest of five siblings, has two children and family is everything to her – creating those special memories is a key to her happiness. She believes ‘’ there are no limits to what you can achieve when you follow your passion and put your mind, heart and soul into it, both in your personal and work life.’’

“Be strong, take risks and do what you feel is right, this will lead you to a successful path.

Embracing opportunities, hard work, determination and taking multiple paths are key to a successful career.”

Find out where you could take your career, whether through a fellowship or a business-side role, and see what it’s like to work at LifeArc.

Media contact

Hannah Severyn

Head of Media and PR at LifeArc

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