Alternative Careers in Medicine - Where can your PhD take you? #3
Our regular series of case studies looks at what career options are available to graduates in medicine and life sciences outside of academia. Lysimachos Zografos is currently Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Edinburgh Innovations. He also founded the award-winning company Parkure, which seeks to find a cure for Parkinson's Disease.
An Interview with Lysimachos Zografos (Entrepreneur-in-Residence)
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
After completing my PhD at Edinburgh, I did my first postdoc at Brainwave-Discovery, a joint spin out of the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The role there – while academic – also included a fair amount of developing a contract research service offering to small pharma and biotech. This exposed me to my first industry interactions and gave me the first taste of business development, in parallel with a busy R&D programme and eventually managing a small team of scientists. One of the offerings we developed showed potential to be developed as a stand-alone company. After discussing with my bosses and mentors at the time, we decided to spin out Parkure, a company now active in neurodegeneration therapeutics discovery. Drawing on this experience I also later on founded a digital health company and also worked with other early stage companies.
Which industry are you working in now and what qualifications and experience did you need to attain your current role?
I’m currently working as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Edinburgh Innovations. There I advise early career researchers on how to take a translational direction in their research. My team – funded by the Wellcome - provides active support and funding for impact driven translational applications of research, including of course commercialisation. I also work as an advisor to my own company, Parkure.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
The majority of my time is spent discussing with researchers and understanding their work and how that could be disruptive in the context of unmet medical needs and the broader market. A fair bit of time is also spent in helping researchers develop a translational roadmap for their work, understand the complexities of things like intellectual property, clinical development or regulatory considerations. The rest of my day usually consists of assisting researchers with funding applications so all these plans can become reality. My evenings and weekends are also fairly busy as that is when I work with an international team of colleagues and partners, across a few time zones, on Parkure-related projects.
Have you encountered any barriers to entry in your career outside academia and how did you overcome them?
Academia and industry – particularly in the life sciences and healthcare fields - have similar goals: to understand the processes behind health a disease and provide solutions to a specific need. The approaches however can be very different. The transition sometimes seems like a car running at a different gear, as some of the consideration of how to arrive at that goal sustainably are very different. Having understanding of each other’s context before the transition would have been great, but patience and good mentoring did the trick for me.
What sort of person would thrive in your particular role?
Independent and able to think laterally. Good understanding of the technical side of things but always in context with what “pull” or need is out there. Good people skills also help!
What advice would you give to an early career researcher who might be interested in pursuing a career outside academia?
I think the most important thing is to speak to people outside academia. Those working in industry, consultants, entrepreneurs. You'd be amazed by how many are willing to help and as an academic you’ve already done most of the hard work. The reality of careers is complex and the more perspectives one gets, the more chances they have to find something they really love.
Lysimachos will be speaking at the next CMVM Post Doc Careers Series on Wednesday, 26th February at 3pm. The talk will be based in the Seminar Room at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine. Followed by drinks and nibbles.
Lysimachos is a Wellcome Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Edinburgh Innovations and the co-founder of Parkure, a mission driven drug discovery and development company. He completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh working on applications of AI/ML in understanding the systems biology of CNS disease.
As a postdoc he collaborated closely with industry, developed phenotypic discovery platforms and spun-out Parkure, focusing on neurodegenerative diseases. He has a solid understanding of the processes driving innovation, as well as the journey of an early career researcher into commercialisation, and is working with the University of Edinburgh to increase its translational output. Beyond drug discovery, his professional experience also includes digital therapeutics and social enterprise.