After completing an MSci in Chemistry at the University of Bristol, I decided to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry; I was motivated by the possibility of helping people by creating improved treatments for disease.
As a medicinal chemist, I started my career at GSK working predominantly in the laboratory. I synthesised intermediates and novel chemical compounds as part of research projects, working to find that one compound with the potential to become a medicine.
As my career progressed, I became more involved in the interpretation of data to enable the design of new molecules. Research is an iterative process, where results from each round of new compounds informs the design of the next set; it is often a juggling act, involving the optimisation of multiple parameters in parallel. As a medicinal chemist, you are exposed to data from a range of other disciplines like biology, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics and computational chemistry. You learn how best to apply this information to solve problems with your molecules. I still spend much of my time working in the laboratory and analysing data, but now also lead a team of chemists, helping them develop their careers.
I have also taken on project leadership roles, where I am still heavily involved in science, but am working closely with a team from different disciplines to define programme strategy and answer the key questions. These could be whether the molecule has the right profile for an oral medicine, whether the molecule is safe or whether it produces the desired effect in biological systems. As such the programme team could include pharmacologists, biologists, toxicologists, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) scientists, clinicians and sometimes statisticians and other specialists.
If you want a job in the pharmaceutical industry, an MChem 4-year degree with an industrial placement is a very good qualification to have. But there isn’t any one ‘right’ path. GSK welcomes people with lots of different educational backgrounds and also offers opportunities for people to study towards degrees, PHDs or postdocs whilst they are working.
If you want to work on some really exciting science I would definitely recommend a career in the pharmaceutical industry. Working at GSK has been fascinating. I have now been working in my field for 17 years and am very proud to have been directly involved in three programmes which have reached clinical trials, one of which is still progressing. This means that one day, hopefully something I have been involved in creating will become a treatment to help improve people’s quality of life. That is an incredibly rewarding career.
If you want to work on some really exciting science I would definitely recommend a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr Charlotte Hardy, medicinal chemist, GSK