The inherent value of a STEMM PhD

Dr Alison Rice wrote the following piece on 30 April 2012 in reaction to losing her job as a medical researcher. She wrote the epilogue which follows five years later to demonstrate that PhD skills are invaluable and timeless. Thank you Alison for sharing this professional journey in such a personal way; and for clearly identifying the inherent value of your PhD beyond the bench.

April 30, 2012: I am a senior research scientist specialising in the complications of bone marrow transplantation as a treatment for leukaemia. As a senior research scientist, I am accountable for the strategic direction and goals of my research group, which includes initiating, developing, financing and directing innovative research projects with the aim of improving patient outcome. I have worked in medical research for 27 years. On June 30, 2012, I will stop working as a medical researcher.

I worked in Australia and France, and I have been privileged to work with some of the pioneers of bone marrow transplantation. I published my research in international peer reviewed journals and presented my work at local, national and international conferences. During my career, I supervised 17 post-graduate students (Honours, Masters and PhD) to completion and the majority of these students continue working in medical research. The quality of our work has been recognised with local, national and international nominations and awards. I won competitive peer-reviewed grants from national and international funding agencies to provide salary support for myself and my staff, and to cover the costs of reagents necessary for the research projects. I contributed to the research community by reviewing grants and manuscripts, organising conferences and serving on committees. I spoke at fundraising and awareness functions to explain our research to the community and to tell them how we value their support.

I don’t want to end my research career here, but I have no choice. I did not win a grant in 2011 and as a result my contract is not being renewed. I am sad for myself. I am sad for my staff. I am sad for the example it gives to younger researchers embarking on a research career. In the current economic climate, no grant equates with ‘not good enough’. Yet research is more than getting grants! It is about publishing papers, communicating your results to your peers, it is teaching undergraduates and post-graduate students. It is about telling the general community that their tax dollar is being well spent and that it will improve their lot. It is about participating in the necessary committees to ensure that the research activities are compliant, contributing to a culture of continual learning, sharing experiences and expertise, repeatedly demonstrating that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It is about leadership. It is about knowing you can’t do everything yourself, how to find and work with your colleagues to take your research to another level, being open to big ideas, knowing what is going on around you, recognising how combining skillsets and different ways of thinking can solve problems.

I will walk away on 30th June 2012 and take all of this knowledge and expertise with me.

Medical research has changed. Research is an expensive activity but investment in it positively impacts the healthcare system. The government has put more money into the system, but research is expensive and a grant does not adequately cover the real and hidden costs of doing cutting-edge research. Disease-based funding bodies, philanthropists, institute funds and community fundraising provide the short fall between government grants and the real cost of research. There are so many deserving areas that need help that we are competing against each other for diminishing pots of money to allow us to continue. The result is that I spend 40% of my time writing grants to fund my research. The success rate of NHMRC grants is 23%.

Am I the only person in this situation? Sadly, it turns out that more and more of my senior experienced colleagues are in the same situation or facing it. Only a small percentage of researchers will have a long term career in academia. The ramifications of this loss of knowledge and expertise may not be felt immediately, but in five years research institutes and universities could be asking where are the new PhD students? The government may be wondering why Australia’s research output slipped or our healthcare system slumped.

So, what am I going to do? I am going to tell the government, the funding bodies and the community what is happening and how Australia’s knowledge economy is being eroded. I am going to make a new career convincing decision-makers and the public of the value of research and how it can transform practice and improve outcome.

Wish me luck.

Since this article was written, the NHMRC success rate has dropped further and the challenges in academia largely remain. On the upside however, the NHMRC has recently undergone a full Structural Review in consultation with the sector. The government has also introduced the National Innovation and Science Agenda, as well as the Medical Research Future Fund, to foster a collaborative culture and to energise the STEM sector.

So, five years later, where is Alison now?


July 31, 2017: I am a Research Development Manager. Who knew such a job existed?! I have come to understand that you cannot do a degree to become skilled in research development; it is not a first career.

The purpose of my role as a Research Development Manager is to identify, generate and manage strategic research opportunities for the University. I use my background as a scientist and my skills in management, education and communication to create and develop synergies between researchers to facilitate engagement with industry partners and government so the researchers can develop and deliver industry relevant research.

To be an effective research development manager, I draw on my inherent and authentic knowledge of what it takes to be successful in the research sector. I am experienced in the art and science of winning and losing grants, I understand the importance of publishing work and telling people about it and I understand the need to tell a great story if you want to get funded. My participation in national grant review panels and formal grant review has given me a keen understanding that grant success requires you to demonstrate the feasibility of your proposal, your leadership in the field and the importance of being able to articulate the impact of research on the field of enquiry.

This part of my career in STEMM has caused me to think about why and how my specialised research experience benefits my current role. I understanding the scientific process – rationale, hypothesis, aims, approach, results, discussion, conclusions and the research drivers. Whilst my background is in leukaemia research as it turns out the process, barriers and drivers are similar in all fields. In fact, in the last 5 years I have provided strategic advice to researchers specialising in renewable energy, law, criminology, policy, social work, history, health and science. This advice has led to more than $20m in successful grants. Sometimes it is really helpful to get some advice from a person skilled in the art but who doesn’t have a specific research agenda and who is not competing against them.

Because I work across the University, I meet a lot of people in diverse areas, hear about their work, develop relationships with them and gain their trust. This broad awareness of institutional research capability and excellence enables me to see the big picture and this in turn helps me see how collaborations can add value and bring new insight to current work. The relationships that I have been able to develop and the strategic advice I provide gives researchers the confidence to consider new ways to advance their work. Thus, while I may no longer do ‘bench research’ I continue to use my ingrained PhD skills to generate knowledge in new ways.

I can say with all honesty that if I had benefited from the skills and services of a Research Development Manager maybe I would still be in research…. But I immensely enjoy the challenges and diversity of what I now do!

About the author:

Dr Alison Rice is a Research Development Manager in the Office of Research at Griffith University. Prior to this appointment, Alison was a Group Leader at the Mater Medical Research Institute and an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. Alison is also Co-President of Women in Technology (WiT), the peak industry body for women in technology and life sciences within Queensland. WiT’s vision is to advance, connect and empower women in technology and life sciences via mentoring, development programs, awards and building networks.


Getting your science kicks post-academia: pharma Medical Affairs

Science can be especially exciting when you feel like you are making a unique contribution. That moment, set up by years of hard slog and tortuous thinking where you suddenly make that next, perhaps unexpected, step in thinking. A step that…Will. Change.  Everything.

Well, at least something that will impress a small and knowledgeable group of fellow academics from across the world, who’ll pepper you with interested questions when you present at your findings at the next conference, each question hitting you like a friendly and approving punch on the shoulder.

I was fortunate to have more than a few moments like this during my research career studying how inflammation damages our blood vessels (proving that Science paper to be wrong was fun), and I loved sharing the excitement of my students as they planted intellectual flags on their own patches of untrampled scientific turf.

The question was, could anything replace this? If I had to leave academia, was there somewhere else I could get my science kicks?

I was hoping so, because the only thing that was keeping me going was the gracious dollars of my crowdfunding donors (many thanks again to you all!).

Sharing my science with the world through my crowdfunding campaign had bought me a full six extra months of creating science, got my noggin on telly, got my name in the Lancet and connected me to a passionate online community of scientists and the science-minded (start by following @MVEG001@DrMel_T and @whereisdaz and go from there).

It was a lot of fun but a hard decision had to be made.

It turns out that science doesn’t just get published in journals and give you a personal thrill. The bits in your journal articles where you speculate how your ideas might one day transform the treatment of diseases sometimes come true.  Or more precisely, a lot of other very dedicated and smart people have to step in and do a great deal more hard slog and tortuous thinking to make it come true. And it turns out that this extra hard slog and tortuous thinking can be equally fun and rewarding.

Now, two and a half years into my new career in pharma, I’m heading off this week to the US to present at my first conference since leaving academia behind.

This time I’ll be presenting at an international pharma industry conference on behalf of APPA, the association that represents medical and scientific professionals working in my part of the industry – Medical Affairs.

Essentially, Medical Affairs professionals are the nerdy people in pharma who are right where the scientific rubber hits the road in turning journal articles into life-altering changes in clinical practice. It’s a growing area of the industry I’ve been lucky enough to jump into and represent as a member of the APPA Executive for the last two years.

On any given day, we nerdy pharma folk could be flying at ungodly hours to and from other capital cities, discussing new scientific findings with health care professionals who are interested in finding ways to improve their clinical practice and their patients lives (I am currently typing this up in the dark, several thousand feet above the Nullarbor on my way back from Perth). We could be helping colleagues in Regulatory Affairs and Market Access to gather and communicate scientific insights about the safety and efficacy of our medications and the value they’ll provide to patients and to the health system. We could be providing scientific support to researchers conducting clinical trials and pre-clinical research aimed at finding new ways to diagnose, monitor and treat the diseases we’re trying to tackle.

We could be doing any number of things that benefit from our technical know-how and our equally important communication and business skills we’ve picked up along the way. Funnily enough, my experiences in crowdfunding were almost an ideal preparation for my new career: in science crowdfunding and in pharma, you have to be pretty fearless in developing new networks both online and off and have a knack for explaining complicated science very clearly, simply and engagingly.

In the US, I’ll be presenting research we’ve done at APPA that highlights the increasing value and strategic importance of Medical Affairs in our industry and that identifies areas we can work on to do even better at bringing science into clinical practice.

So as I present to my new nerdy colleagues across the world, I won’t feel so far from where I left, but a lot closer to changing everything.

Considering leaving academia becoming a Medical Science Liaison? My top 3 pointers:
  • Network, network, network. Have coffee with as many people as you can. Ask for advice and not a job. Always ask who else you should get advice from so you have your next coffee date lined up. Meet people inside and outside of Medical Affairs. By time you speak to a recruiter or an HR dept, you’ll know so much about the industry and what an MSL does and what value they provide that you’ll have knock-out elevator pitch about how your skills and experience make you perfect for the role. There’s also some great resources online to help you (see my mate’s business ‘From Science to Pharma’).
  • You love meeting new people and are great at making new collaborations.
  • You have the gift of the gab and can deliver knock-out written presentations to pretty much anyone, from experts in your field to your grandma (assuming your grandma isn’t an expert in your field).

About the Author

Dr Martin Rees is a Senior Medical Science Liaison at Shire Pharmaceuticals and serves on the Executive Committee of APPA, the representative association for Medical Affairs professionals in Australia. APPA is closely aligned with key industry and academic stakeholders (ARCS Australia, UNSW and Medicines Australia) and supports its members through professional development, networking and advocacy. Prior to move into pharma, Martin held a lectureship at the UNSW Faculty of Medicine and researched how blood vessels get damaged by free radicals during inflammatory diseases and developed drugs to stop this damage. His professional role within the pharmaceutical industry builds on his previous experience in science communication through traditional and social media channels, which included a crowdfunding campaign for his research that was featured in The Lancet.


How I ended up in industry, or close enough to it

A couple of weeks into my current role, I met up with a friend for brunch. My friend started her PhD a couple of years after I did and had recently submitted her thesis. She had been applying for research jobs in academia and industry for the past few months to no avail and was getting quite dejected. She cited her lack of industry experience as one of the main reasons as to why she was unsuccessful in her job applications. When I told her about my new role and about the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS), she exclaimed that she would’ve jumped at the opportunity to participate in a program like this.

I understood her frustrations because I had been there. I started my PhD studies with the intention of ‘doing good in the world’, I was fairly competent at science and doing experiments so I thought a career in research was the right way to go. Unlike my peers, I learned very early on that I did not want a career in academia, with its cut-throat publish or perish environment and the constant stress to obtain funding. It was soon after this that I realised I did not want a career in the laboratory either, that research was really better left to those who found joy in working at the bench. I took on more teaching opportunities at the University to obtain extra skills and while I thought about going into industry, I didn’t really know where to start looking.

As I barrelled towards the final year of my PhD, I began to look around for alternative opportunities more seriously (or desperately!). One of the issues with going to your academic advisors for advice and contacts is that, when their research does not intersect much with industry, all they can provide you with is academic advice and contacts. After speaking to a lot of professors and head of departments, I decided to switch gears and head to the dark side – the Business Development team in my institute. I took up a mini-internship there to learn the ins and outs of commercialisation, talked through my (lack of) career plans with a senior business development manager and obtained a handful of contacts from him. Eventually, a meeting with one of those contacts led to my first full-time job post-PhD, as a Project Officer in the Research Management Office at my University.

That experience taught me a lot about networking and talking to the right people. As I was not sure a career in research management at the University was what I wanted, I continued seeking out people in senior positions and asking them out for coffee and advice. I continued following up with the ones that I ‘clicked’ with. One of these discussions sparked the decision for me to leave the University to explore other opportunities. Another mentor encouraged me to look at different industry roles and eventually played a part in putting me in touch with my current employer.

I was genuinely excited to learn about IMNIS during my interview. I related a lot to the difficulties of young scientists in academia connecting with industry, especially when you’re not quite sure where to start or what you want out of your career. Recently, an IMNIS mentor stated that they wanted mentees to be driven and enthusiastic, even if they are not quite sure what they wanted career-wise yet. I think that is what a good mentor does: they will point you towards multiple possibilities and help you out as much as they can, but it is up to you to pursue the opportunities presented and figure out where you want to go yourself.

So, here I am. Being part of IMNIS allows me to fulfil my need to ‘do good’ as I truly believe that the program provides an invaluable opportunity for young researchers to learn from industry leaders, connect broadly and explore the landscape outside of academia. My friend has gotten a few interviews since our catch up and is awaiting the outcomes now. While I’m sure she’ll eventually be alright, I can’t help but wonder if her journey would be much easier had we been taught to connect with industry earlier on…

About the author:

Dr Janet Yeo is the National Projects Manager with AusBiotech and the IMNIS MedTech-Pharma Program Coordinator. Dr Yeo graduated with her PhD in Medical Biology from the University of Melbourne where she also taught Masters of Engineering students as an Engineering Communications tutor and Skills Towards Employment Program demonstrator at the University. Dr Yeo worked for a year in research management at the University of Melbourne, supporting the delivery of the University’s Research Infrastructure Strategy objectives. A discussion about her future with a mentor sparked the decision to finally leave the comfort of the University after nearly a decade studying and working there. Dr Yeo is responsible for recruiting industry mentors in the life sciences nationally as well as the administration of Mentorloop for the IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program with ATSE.



Five ways to kickstart the STEM economy in Australia

This article was first published in The Conversation, Dec 7, 2015 here 

The word “innovation” has taken on a new currency in the Australian research sector. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced major plans to revitalise the research sector, deliver a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focused economy and promote a highly skilled labour market.

New [2015] federal minister for industry, innovation and science, Christopher Pyne announced a number of new policies to ramp up Australian innovation. Locally, a A$60 million Victorian initiative, LaunchVic, was announced this week to accelerate startup development and create jobs.

And later today [Dec 7, 2015] the government will be releasing its Innovation Statement, outlining its plans for the future.

In these exciting times, Australian researchers and businesses are being asked to embrace volatility, to disrupt and – most of all – to innovate.

Playing catch up

But if Australia is to become a world leader in research innovation, we need to pay closer attention to the ways in which we can promote, foster and capitalise on the work of Australian researchers, today and into the future.

Australia ranks very respectably for research output, being among the top ten despite our population size lying outside the top 50. Unfortunately, in terms of innovation capacity, we are currently falling far behind our overseas competitors.

For example:

  • According to the Chief Scientist’s report, Science, Technology, Engineering And Mathematics: Australia’s Future, Australia ranks 81st as a converter of raw innovation capability into outputs such as products, wealth and new knowledge
  • In an OECD analysis, Australia is last among 33 countries in terms of large business-to-research collaboration
  • Unlike all other OECD countries, Australia does not yet have a national strategy beyond 2015 for science, technology and/or innovation
  • Only 30% of Australian researchers are employed in business, half the OECD average, and young Australian scientists are leaving the field in droves.

So, if we are serious about realising Australia’s innovation capacity and catching up to our international competitors, a range of strategic approaches is necessary. Here are five key areas where we can build on our capacities for research innovation:

Promote STEM education and training

Participation in science subjects in Australian schools is at the lowest level in 20 years and our ranking in school-level scientific literacy has dropped from 2006 to 2012.

And at the pointy end of science training, most PhD programs do not contain any business or industry component. Federally supported Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) are an important exception to this and have delivered industry-experienced graduates and strong commercial outcomes in a wide range of sectors.

Value business collaborations when funding research grants

The vast majority of Australian researchers work for universities, meaning professional promotion and funding outcomes are closely aligned to the number of scientific articles they publish and where their name sits amon the list of authors.

Such a system is not conducive to impactful research and working with business, nor is it an indicator of innovation. Publication quantity has no bearing on, for example, the number of patients successfully treated or how efficient a new solar panel may function.

Rather than enforcing the demoralising “publish or perish” culture within academia, markers of innovation and industry collaboration (such as patents and commercial investment) should also be valued.

A culture of risk

Just as mining and resource exploration are high risk pursuits, Australia must become more comfortable with risk in the STEM and innovation sector. Rather than research teams having to tick all the boxes in terms of “proposal feasibility”, the assessing, managing and taking of risk is critical for Australia to join the ranks of other high performing countries that are characterised by openness to new ideas and bold “blue-sky” research pursuits.

Motivate Australian-generated intellectual property to stay within Australia

European IP hubs that provide tax benefits for profits derived from the exploitation of IP are a threat to Australian innovation. Known as a “patent box” regime, they have quickly spread throughout Europe and are currently under review in the US.

For example, in the UK the general corporate tax rate is 20-21%. Yet the tax on profits derived from the exploitation of IP it is only 10%. Australia’s lack of concessional tax treatment for IP was cited by Melbourne based biopharmaceutical CSL, as a primary reason for its decision to locate its new A$500 million manufacturing facility offshore in Switzerland.

Foster women in STEM

As well as the gender pay gap in science there is a “leaky pipeline” of women in STEM careers. In the US 52% of biology PhD graduates are women, while they make up only 36% of assistant professors and 18% of full professors.

Similar drop-offs in women in senior positions in STEM are seen in Australia. The new Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot is aimed at tackling this gender imbalance and promoting more female academics to senior positions. UK and US initiatives lead the way in this area and Australia must ensure its measures are up to the mark.

Only a collaborative, multifaceted approach will ensure Australia leads, and is not left out of, economic transformation in the global STEM race.

About the Author:

Dr Nadine Brew works in medical research commercialisation and intellectual property management at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research. She has previously participated in the Molecules-2-Medicine research commercialisation program and undertaken a Churchill travel fellowship learning about drug development in USA, Germany and Singapore. Earlier in the year she completed a placement with the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund. Currently she is jointly appointed as a commercialisation analyst at Monash Innovation. Nadine has a Ph.D in neonatal lung injury from Monash University and was previously a postdoc researcher in the Ritchie Centre, Melbourne, and at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C.


The ‘lucky country’ needs to be re-invented


This article was first published in The Conversation, Nov 30, 2015 here 

Despite a lot of talk about the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), technical innovation and improved interaction between the research universities and industry, little has improved in recent years.

In our vision for innovation we see changes that drive the kind of industry-academia based interaction Australia needs. Tax changes, a restructure of how universities are funded, broader training for post-graduate students to include industry engagement and changes to some anachronistic institutions such as CSIRO.

It was into this situation that the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) program was founded last year, as an Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) initiative. IMNIS was founded as a scalable, inexpensive intervention to enhance the commercial knowledge and focus of STEM post-graduates, thus enabling long-term cultural change.

IMNIS matches senior PhD students with successful industry mentors, and has run pilot programs in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. The student uptake and mentor involvement has been enthusiastic.

IMNIS is not the only program to educate graduates in commercial science, although its focus on networking and widespread volunteer mentoring does differ from training or placement schemes.

While IMNIS should help, and will certainly help individuals, all the schemes are collectively only a small part of the cultural change necessary for a technically innovative society.

Chasing excellence

We now have a university business model and research incentive scheme that does little to reward either university or industry for cross fertilisation. Research university business models are based largely on selling education to international fee-paying students.

Meanwhile, the incentive for industry collaboration is low, whereas the drive to achieve a high rank in the Excellence in Research for Australia ERA scheme, which favours research publications over industry collaboration, is high.

So what is to be done? Many are suggesting solutions. ATSE has commented on the ERA structure, and everybody believes quality research should be rewarded. On the other hand, the ERA is now a bureaucracy in itself.

Every university group has a view on ERA and quality research outcomes, but what is “quality” in research anyway? Right now it is mostly a self-referencing system: quality research is publication in quality journals, and citation by others in said quality journals, a virtuous circle.

Quality research defined this way is supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and obtaining funding from these sources – but not commercial sources – is also defined as a quality research measure, hence the circular virtue for those receiving grant funding.

R&D tax incentive

Over the past decade we have seen an erosion of industry directed support programs at federal and in some cases state level. The one incentive that has demonstrably delivered, even for small companies, is the R&D tax incentive.

The previous scheme rewarded big business such as mining and banking and ignored the small entrepreneurial companies and new industries. The current R&D scheme rewards small companies and provides needed non equity diluting capital for R&D.

AusBiotech, the industry body for the Australian biotechnology and life sciences sector, has many examples of companies that brought clinical trials to Australia and have reached their value inflection point sooner and been able to invest more intensively in research as a result. This is ultimately good for the waiting consumer and good for the economy.

However, not all recipients fulfil the policy intent. Some large companies are “gaming the system” by reframing “business as usual” activities as research. So if we’re to maximise the benefit from the scheme for the country, we need to tighten eligibility criteria to ensure the purpose of the incentive is delivered.

What history has shown is that for all tax, education and grant schemes, we have become the crafty country, across the spectrum of society. For industry, the definition of research appears to have become very wide and in education allowable taxpayer financed education has reached ludicrous levels.

One suggestion is that the R&D incentive should be structured to encourage industry to collaborate and fund universities. But why should industry do this? What makes university research more beneficial than projects run by industry? Universities are all “R” and little “D”, even if they have tried to access more funding by claiming translational activities.

Instead of more special pleading, we need real commitment to collaboration.

Post-graduate training

With new data indicating that only 10% of current PhD students in STEM will gain a permanent academic position, we need urgent changes to broaden graduate opportunities. Australian PhD graduates are well regarded overseas for their scientific training yet they have little knowledge of industry.

Industry will hire these bright young scientists for their talent yet could end up firing them for their personal style if they cannot work in teams and communicate effectively.

Universities are now rushing to address these issues. But the university sector is not rewarded for industry collaboration, nor does it really value it.

Universities largely subsidised the on cost of ARC/NHMRC grants, yet they seek “commercial” rates for industry collaborations. And why not, as only the former has ERA and ranking value? Yet the message it sends to university staff and potential industry collaborators is that the university does not consider research done with industry as priority research, it is of lesser value and quality and almost tradesman like.

We cannot build an innovative culture while trapped in a mindset of special pleading, and where purist mentalities prevail like old aristocrats disdaining trade. We will not change without major reform in our structures and thinking, which means for researchers and industry its not about more funding to do more of exactly what they are doing now, without major change to institutional structure and reward.

Broad reforms

Transforming to an “innovative culture” will require broad reforms in attitude and an acceptance of change. CSIRO is one organisation that could do with reform in this area.

CSIRO has been lumbering along for years trying many models of operating, and it’s clearly the most logical group for translational research, leaving the pure research for universities.

We advocate for a disaggregated CSIRO, composed of semi-independent commercially-driven institutes, which persist only as they address the needs of Australian industries, with those CSIRO functions of public good folded back into university affiliated institutes.

Outside academia, we can re-examine the R&D incentive to push the creation of new innovative companies, rather than largely just supporting existing players. Targeted capital gains tax relief is another tool that can encourage risk taking research investment in new small to medium enterprises with less off-target leakage to major and multi-national corporations.

We also need reward systems for universities to collaborate with industry, reward systems for staff within those universities that truly value industry collaboration and other community engagement, and universities training students to engage with industry as a natural part of their activities.

It will require a cultural shift, to be sure, but we see the addition of such measures detracts nothing from, and in fact provides resource to, the pure research function of universities.

This article is drawn from a conversation with Dr Tony Radford (Director IMNIS) and Dr Anna Lavelle (CEO AusBiotech).

About the Author

Professor Paul Wood is an eminent Australian scientist, with expertise spanning from basic and applied research, to commercialisation and senior management of Global R&D. Paul obtained his PhD from the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, in 1982. After a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Melbourne, he joined the CSIRO Division of Animal Health as Leader of the TB Diagnostic and Vaccine Development Program, where he developed and patented the platform TB diagnostic technology now successfully commercialised by CSL, Prionics and the Australian company, Cellestis. Paul received a number of awards for this research including the CSIRO medal, ASM Diagnostic award and in 2013 The Clunies-Ross award. Paul was also the Deputy-Director of the CRC for Vaccine Technology from 1993-2000 and has published over 100 scientific papers. In 1997, he became Vice President/Director, Global Research and Development in Animal Health at CSL, and in 2004 joined Pfizer Animal Health as Senior Director, A/NZ Biologicals R&D. In 2008, he left Australia to become Executive Director, Global Discovery, Pfizer Animal Health, Kalamazoo, Michigan. In this role he led the Global Discovery team for both pharmaceutical and biological products with 200 staff and a budget of US$60 million. Paul returned to Australia in 2012 and established his own consultancy company and accepted an Adjunct Professor position at Monash University. He was also a Director of a start-up AH company Nexvet Biopharma and is Co-Director of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) Mentoring Initiative. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow (FTSE) of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He is a strong advocate for the value of gender diversity in science and the need to see more women in senior leadership roles. Paul Wood on Twitter: @paulwood1508