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Malcolm Skingle

Career progression

1. Lab Technician in a pharmacology department

2. Neuropharmacology Research Leader

3. Technology Transfer Manager

4. Director of Academic Liaison

Published: in Industry

Malcolm is Director of Academic Liaison at GSK

What is your career pathway to date (including your education)?

I joined the pharmaceutical industry from school. Academically, I was a late developer and did part time study whilst working in industry. I did an HNC at UH, a BSc in Pharmacology and Biochemistry at UEL and a part time CNAA PhD affiliated to University of London in 45 months.

In the first half of my career I was fortunate enough to work in the most successful pharmacology department that has ever existed.  I was lucky to have worked with so many talented people. After twenty years at the bench I decided to look for another career in the industry that I loved. 

The good thing about working in the pharmaceutical industry is that there are lots of options for career changes.  I absolutely loved bench science and publishing novel findings but I knew that I did not want to a scientist for the whole of my career.

I left running a very busy research lab to take on the role of Technology Transfer Manager where I was responsible for assessing and licensing new technologies into the company.  I had to work closely with several internal departments (legal, finance, intellectual property) and liaise with the scientists to ensure that the acquired technology was fit for purpose.

Having acquired commercial and legal knowledge over a couple of years I then took on the role of Academic Liaison Director.  During this time, I have built a team of ten whose sole role is to broker agreements with academics.  GSK collaborate with more academic groups globally than any other company.

What do you do ?  What does a typical week look like to you ?

In my current role, I run a small team of ten people split across GSK US and UK sites who initiate and expedite collaboration agreements around the globe on behalf of GSK scientists. 

Approximately 50% of my time is spent outside the company working with a range of stakeholders to develop new collaborations.  This involves interacting with the academic scientists, vice-chancellors and pro-vice chancellors, funding agencies, skills providers, university spin outs, politicians and policy makers. The role is such that I never have two weeks that are the same and I need to prioritise my stakeholder meetings as I will often have diary clashes.

I am involved with many external organisations that help underpin the skills and science that GSK need to prosper. Accordingly, I work closely with the research councils and currently sit on BBSRC Council. I also sit on HEFCE Main Panel A, Diamond synchrotron board, the National Physical Laboratory Advisory Board and the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board (LSISIB).  I am a Trustee at the BPS.  I also chair the ABPI Academic Liaison Network, some panels for NC3Rs, the Science Industry Partnership (driving the uptake of scientific apprenticeships in England) and DiSCo (Diamond industrial advisory board). 

The diversity of these groupings allows me to pull my networks together to drive areas of science and help make the ground fertile for the UK pharmaceutical industry.

What do you like and dislike about your current position?

Like:

  • The excitement of bringing people together to develop new technology and thinking
  • Working with bright, driven people
  • Developing team members to be more effective
  • Talking with people who are keen to innovate
  • Always being able to find common ground with new academics or funders
  • Influencing funding bodies to support science that helps underpin our industry

Dislike:

  • Meetings that do not have a clear purpose or outcome
  • Bureaucratic processes that do not add value

What three pieces of advice would you give someone keen on developing a career in your area of work?

  • Consider the precise role that you would like to have in 5 years and further, what additional skills and training you might need to acquire to secure the role.  This will then force you to plan any future CPD.  You are responsible for your own career development and CPD.  Others are often prepared to give advice – but your progression and CPD is your responsibility – make it happen.
  • Engage a mentor.  Someone you respect and trust who will not be frightened to help you identify any shortcomings you might have and will help you plan your forward projections.
  • Increase your networks to broaden your thinking and increase the number of potential opportunities available to you.

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