Dr Lauren Giorgio is an accomplished scientist and company executive, with experience in identifying commercial opportunities from academic research and building teams and strategies to drive commercialisation. She is also a strongly committed IMNIS mentor with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s Industry Mentoring Network in STEM. For National Science Week this year, we asked Lauren a few questions about her career and all things STEM!

Dr Lauren Giorgio [photo: L.G.; provided]

Can you tell us a bit about your career?

I graduated from the University of Adelaide with a PhD in cancer biology and have spent my career working alongside world-leading academics and clinicians to commercialise research across the pharmaceutical, medical device, digital health and diagnostic sectors. 

I am currently the Chief Operating Officer at GPN Vaccines, a biotech company based in Adelaide that is developing a serotype-independent pneumococcal vaccine. 

I have also held Business Development roles at the Centre for Eye Research Australia and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, and have been involved in the establishment, management and strategic direction of several small companies including OccuRx, Enlighten Imaging and Catalyst Therapeutics.

You have served on boards and as an inclusive leader, you are committed to seeing more women on boards. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Skills and training in STEM are becoming increasingly important to driving innovation, leading to new and better products and services, higher living standards and ultimately, stronger economic growth. However, a recent survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) found only 3% of Australian company directors have a STEM background.

It is therefore critical that we place more STEM-qualified professionals such as scientists and engineers on boards.

To help achieve this, I co-founded the Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Program which provides women in STEM with the qualifications, skills, confidence and networks needed to attain senior leadership and board positions. A quarter of the women in our first cohort are now serving on boards.

Do you believe there’s been more research collaborations between industry and academia in the pandemic?

Yes, it seems Covid-19 has united the scientific community in ways we have never seen before. Data is being shared, vaccines and treatments are being developed and clinical trials are being launched at rapid speeds, bringing together companies, universities and hospitals from all around the world.

Science and innovation is happening at a rapid pace right now, do you think this is a risk or an opportunity?

This is an important opportunity to build capabilities within Australia, particularly in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. However, the rapid publication of literature, and expedited preclinical and clinical development pathways do present a risk that we must manage to ensure high standards of scientific communication and drug development are maintained.

We see a lot of people losing their jobs, but have you seen new jobs created or job growth as a result of the pandemic?

I have seen a number of scientific roles in industry advertised recently. While not all of them will be a direct result of the pandemic, it is encouraging to see small Australian biotech companies taking on more staff during such challenging times.

What the one piece of advice you would give to early stage researchers during the pandemic?

Be kind to yourself. This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone. You are not going to be anywhere near your best, most productive self and that’s OK. Just do what you can and take things one day at a time.

LinkedIn: Lauren Giorgio

Learn more: National Science Week