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Elliot Lilley

Career proElliot-Lilley-photo-300x300.jpggression

1. Biomedical Science BSc

2. PhD

3. In vivo research in industry

4. Part-time teaching and consultancy work

5. Advocacy in animal welfare

Elliot is a senior scientific officer at the RSPCA.

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

A levels – Biology, Chemistry and Physics
BSc (Hons) - Biomedical Science – King’s College London
PhD Pharmacology – King’s College London
Nitrergic neurotransmission in rodent smooth muscle
Staff scientist – James Black Foundation (10 years)
In vivo pharmacology – gastric acid secretion
Lab head – Novartis (5 years)
In vivo pharmacology – chronic pain and gastrointestinal pharmacology
Part-time lecturer and consultant (1.5 years)
Partial career break to look after my baby daughter
Senior scientific officer – RSPCA (5.5 years to date)
Animal welfare advocate
Promote 3Rs
Animal ethics editor for British Journal of Pharmacology (BJP)
Co-convener of ethics, education and training section of Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA)
Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body member

I started my career as a bench scientist, initially with in vitro smooth muscle pharmacology (during my PhD) followed by 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry as an in vivo pharmacologist. I left industry for a variety of reasons, primarily to be a stay at home dad but also because I had become tired of the culture of drug discovery within industry at the time.

I had always been a keen advocate of animal welfare during my career and when the opportunity to work within the research animals department of the RSPCA became available, I was keen to apply.

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

I wear several ‘hats’ at the RSPCA. I lead on a project to reduce suffering in models and procedures that have the potential for severe suffering (the highest level of suffering permitted under UK and EU legislation) – this means that I spend at least 60% of my time running expert working groups, writing reports and blogs, reading the literature, writing and giving talks in the UK and internationally (I’ve spoken in China, Austria, Norway, Denmark, The Czech Republic, Germany and the USA) and designing printed and online resources. I’m also the animal ethics editor of the British Journal of Pharmacology – I handle anything from 1-10 papers a week from senior editors who ask for my opinion on the ethical suitability of submitted manuscripts which describe research involving animals.

I also co-convene the Ethics, Education and Training section of the Laboratory Animal Science Association. This means that I organise and chair meetings, edit guidance documents to help the scientific community to improve standards of animal research and help to run workshops on animal welfare.

Finally, I keep a watching brief on other aspects of research animal-related science including development and validation of alternatives, experimental design, research integrity and translational validity. No week is ever ‘typical’ - my work is varied, interesting and challenging. I’m a passionate scientist, pharmacologist and animal welfarist – balancing all three is what makes my job so rewarding.

What do you like and dislike the most about your current position?

Likes – variation; no two weeks are ever the same.

Dislikes – the polarisation of the debate regarding animals in research; this is a highly emotive subject which requires a nuanced understanding of the issues.

How do you see your career further progressing in the future?

I still enjoy teaching and would enjoy the possibility of returning to academia at some point. Other than that, I’d like to continue to contribute to the advancement of pharmacology and animal welfare in as broad a range of contexts as possible.

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

Be open to new opportunities – a good scientist can have a worthwhile career in a wide range of disciplines.

Stay true to your principles.

Maintain a good work-life balance – don’t be afraid to put family and friends first.

Published: 07 Sep 2017 in Industry