Beyond the PhD recently had the pleasure of hosting a seminar by Dr. Tom Charlesworth who serves as the Director for Portfolio Strategy at Cambridge Epigenetix. After obtaining his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, he worked at a medical communications agency and the Wellcome Trust which allowed to gain a repertoire of non-scientific skills relevant to his current role at Cambridge Epigenetix.
While he had initially planned for a career in academia, he realized that he wanted to explore non-academic careers at the end of his PhD program. One of his first positions was at a medical communications agency that was involved in educating medical personnel on pathophysiological research areas that pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies are focused on and essentially serve as a liaison between the companies and doctors. He discussed his transition from benchwork to office work and his collaborations with various internal and external teams on different projects. He also talked about transferrable skills from a PhD stint that might remain invisible in an academic track. Some of them are listed below.
- Time management
- Attention to detail
- Scientific writing skills
- Critical thinking
- Analysis of complex information
He had then moved on to a position at the Wellcome Trust managed translational funding schemes which helped him understand how the research funding process works as well as transition of academic research to the clinical stage. His time at the Wellcome Trust allowed him to generate a network of industry contacts that allowed him to explore career opportunities in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries. He then wanted to expand his skill set in the intellectual property (IP) realm which led him to a position at the School of Medicine in the University of Cambridge where he dealt with contract negotiation and diligence. He consequently moved on to the Cambridge Enterprise which deals majorly with technology transfer. This position allowed him to learn more about commercialization and IP management. He talked about the importance of charting your own path by talking to a wide variety of people on their career paths instead of following a path already taken by another individual.
He then moved on to a position as a Contracts and IP Manager at Cambridge Epigenetix (VEGX) where he could use the skills he had gained in previous positions like contract negotiation and IP management. He also talked about his role in the manufacturing and commercial strategy verticals. CEGX provides a platform to simultaneously analyze genetic and epigenetic information from a sample. He discussed his current role in the company which involves making decisions on the products that need to be manufactured based on integration of different inputs based on customer feedback as well as current research articles and patent information. He concluded his talk with the important point that there is no right path for individual career progression.