Ruth Pharmaceutical Toxicology

What career path and training has led you to your current job?

I studied Biochemistry at Manchester University then went on to do a PhD in Cancer Biology at the Cancer Research Campaign, now the CRUK Paterson Institute. I absolutely loved cell biology/biochemistry and its application to human health, so I went onto to postdoctoral research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund labs at the Hammersmith Hospital, looking at the cellular signalling in oncology and its link to clinically expressed oncogenes. I wasn’t intending to join industry so early but in 1990 (2 years postdoc for me) I saw an advert for a Cancer Cell Biologist to work at ICI Central Toxicology Laboratory at Alderley Park, Cheshire. This was a very formative 12 years, building a research career and profile in industrial toxicology as well as picking up toxicology by osmosis!

Following that, I made a big move to be Director of Toxicology for Aventis Pharma in Paris, then later for AstraZeneca (AZ) at Alderley Park. In my current role I lead a large team of study directors and project toxicologists working at all stages of drug discovery and development from target selection through to post-marketing. I also oversee the external collaboration strategy for pre-clinical safety assessment in AZ.

Why did you want to study Toxicology?

I have never studied toxicology…..except via on the job daily training….am I allowed to say this?!

What’s a typical day at work like?

Hmm….no such thing. My main work involves a lot of discussion and ‘lab meetings’ where we design and review toxicology packages and thinks about submission strategies to gain registration. We also plan a lot of problem solving, perhaps when a drug has an unexpected effect in pre-clinical animal studies and we need to know the significance for potential patients. In addition to this, I have a lot of external commitments such as president of the BTS, President Elect of EUROTOX and membership of committees such as the ABPI (Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries) pre-clinical drug safety network that exist to bring together the interests of stakeholders in the UK Pharmaceutical Industry. I think it’s key as a scientist in industry to be aware, to access and to influence the outside world and to ensure these networks align to deliver the best for patients through good science and strategic thinking. Writing papers and supervising students and postdocs maintains scientific sharpness!

Another key aspect of my role as a Pharmaceutical Toxicologist is recruiting, training and developing people.

What are the best things about being a toxicologist in the pharmaceutical industry?

I was always fascinated by scientific discovery and always intended to work in this field in some way. My role allows me to use my scientific training but in a way directly connected to human health and well-being.