Name | Laura Sherlock Role | Associate Director, GMP Analytical Development & QC Joined | Joined the PMO team at bit.bio in Mar22 & moved over to my new role in Dec22 Academic background | BSc in Biotechnology; MSc in Science Communication both from Dublin City University (DCU)
Tell us about yourself? What is your background?
I always had an interest in science so studied Biotechnology in Dublin City University. A 6-month industrial placement was part of the course which I completed in Pfizer’s small biologics team in Sittingbourne, Kent. This placement cemented the fact that I wanted to leave academia after completing my undergraduate course and shortly after graduating I started as a Quality Control Analyst in Pfizer’s biopharmaceutical campus in west Dublin.
Unexpectedly, I spent the next 16 years with Pfizer moving across various roles until I found my home in the MSAT, Analytical Sciences team where we supported method development, tech transfers, regulatory filings and troubleshooting technical issues across Pfizer’s biologics portfolio.
This role was so varied, challenging and rewarding as I led a team that worked on some of the most successful biologics and vaccines in the world and got to see first hand the impact these medicines have on family and friends… the big test came when my two kids were vaccinated with a Pneumococcal vaccine made on site!
After Pfizer, I continued to work in the analytical development space for Jazz Pharmaceuticals working on pre-clinical programs in the oncology space and began to incorporate more project management skills into my roles.
We moved to Cambridge during the pandemic (why not!!) and I spent some time settling my family into our new life and deciding what direction I wanted to take next in my career.
When you started at bit.bio you were in the project management team, why did you decide to make a move to Analytical Development & QC? What are you going to support there?
While I thoroughly enjoyed working as a Project Manager at bit.bio, when the opportunity came up to help build the Analytical Development and QC team in the Tech Ops function, I knew I had to go for it! In a way it is such a familiar space for me but with the added challenge of working in a new modality - cell therapy. Something I have learnt about myself is that I love to take on a new challenge with every new role I take.
There are two aspects to this role:
1. Quality Control (QC) release testing for bit.bio’s ever growing Research Products portfolio and
2. Establishing an analytical development team to develop new methods that will ultimately be used as the QC release methods for our first cell therapy program. As we don’t have GMP QC labs in-house we will use Contract Testing Labs to perform our GMP testing. It’s part of my role to figure out what labs we want to use and oversee the testing as it is performed.
Laura and her previous PMO team.
As well as the academic background, what skills do you think you need in the candidates joining your team?
While technical skills (e.g. Flow Cytometry, PCR and ELISA) are crucially important, being a great problem solver, collaborator and communicator are key skills for a senior scientist within this team. Initially, we will be a relatively small team so an ability to work across multiple projects and create strong working relationships with the cross functional teams we will work closely with (MSAT PD, Translational Medicine, Regulatory, etc) is essential. Having a strong desire and drive to see bit.bio succeed in developing our first cell therapy product is really important.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I am really proud of the range of therapeutic modalities that I have worked during my career to date and am so excited to have the opportunity to work on cell therapies now. From each of these experiences, I have learnt so much about the lifecycle of therapeutics, the unique regulatory space they sit in and have formed invaluable relationships and connections with so many team members. I really look forward to sharing this knowledge and experiences with the bit.bio team.
What do you enjoy outside working hours?
When I am not coordinating the social and sporting lives of my 10 & 8 year olds, I really enjoy keeping fit and in particular love a good high-intensity cardio workout. Since moving to Cambridge, I’ve re-discovered the love of playing tennis and try to play as often as I can…getting the whole family involved when possible! There is also nothing that makes me happier than a good book and a large glass of red wine.
Laura's children on a trip together.
Laura enjoying a good time at Wimbledon.
What's the culture at bit.bio like?
The culture at bit.bio is so refreshing! I love how open, friendly and eager everyone is to share their knowledge and to collaborate to see a common goal become reality. The leadership team at bit.bio encourages all team members to have a voice and to share their opinion on how we can do things better. I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to work in an organisation that is not only ambitious but inclusive, positive, progressive and determined to maintain this culture.
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