This quarter, we look forward to welcoming 2 new colleagues – Heather McKinnon and Giovanna Lalli – to strategic leadership roles in our science team.  

Heather McKinnon will join us as a Senior Director for Diagnostics and our Opportunity Assessment Group. She’ll be responsible for expanding our diagnostics activities, and will represent LifeArc within the growing Edinburgh biosciences ecosystem and Scotland more broadly.  

Our Opportunity Assessment Group provides scientific and commercial assessment of new opportunities for our Translational Challenges and science teams. 

Giovanna will join us as our new Director of Strategy and Operations and provide key operational and strategic support for our science team. Working closely with our Chief Scientific Officer, Dave Powell, Giovanna will develop flagship strategic initiatives and ensure operational efficiency across our science efforts. 

About Heather 

Heather McKinnon has over 25 years’ experience in drug discovery leadership, most recently heading the Integrated Drug Discovery division of Syngene International.  

Heather has previously been Joint Head of Drug Discovery at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow and has an Honorary Professorship in the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow.  

She has worked for 16 years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently at Organon/Schering-Plough/MSD where she worked for 10 years leading optimisation projects in cardiovascular and inflammatory disease across multiple sites in the USA, Singapore and The Netherlands.  

It was very clear to me that LifeArc is an organisation that is looking to make a difference… what appeals to me is the focus on clinical need, on a local and global level, identifying patients underserved by the existing pharmaceutical and biotech industry.  

LifeArc has structure and focus and is not constrained by a single modality but will support research for medicines, diagnostics and devices.  

I am looking forward to collaborating with colleagues across the LifeArc organisation but in particular I am excited about my role in Edinburgh to identify and support the very best research across Scotland and support the team to have a substantial impact within the Scottish bioscience ecosystem.’ 

About Giovanna 

With a broad scientific background, Giovanna brings over 20 years of experience in leadership roles across academic and funding sectors, including senior management positions at Wellcome, overseeing a multimillion Neuroscience and Mental Health portfolio and leading strategic funding initiatives. Throughout her career she has forged strong relationships with a large network of stakeholders across academia, industry, government, charity, funders, leading to several strategic partnerships promoting research and innovation. 

Over the past 5 years Giovanna was Director of Scientific Affairs at the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI). She played a crucial role in the establishment of the institute and the development of its scientific strategy, collaborative research programmes, and benefit realisation framework, making key contributions towards the first successful UK DRI quinquennial review. 

‘Throughout my career I have become passionate about accelerating the translation of quality discovery science, promoting innovation to make a real difference in tackling devastating disorders. I am truly excited to be joining LifeArc, and look forward to working with colleagues and partners to make life science life changing’. 

We look forward to the experience and perspectives both Heather and Giovanna will bring to LifeArc!