A kind of dating agency for scientists; The Research Network at Discovery Park aim to find the right person for the right job.
Last year, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced they were to pull out of their Sandwich plant. Andrew McElroy is one of seven former Pfizer employees who formed The Research Network (TRN) – the first spin out to occupy space on Discovery Park. The area is now one of 11 enterprise zone announced by David Cameron in August last year, earmarked as a trailblazer for growth, jobs and prosperity throughout the country.
TRN are well positioned to assist other organisations locating to the area to find the right employee for their company – they’ve even been dubbed a dating agency for scientists.
This month we caught up with Andrew to find out a bit more about The Research Network.
What prompted you to set up The Research Network?
Over the past few years, we built a group at Pfizer Sandwich to support external research, making external technologies and services more accessible to project teams. This team provided scientific oversight and optimised processes to enable remote research. The scientists in this group became experienced in business to business collaboration, contracting, invoicing etc. When the decision was taken by Pfizer to downsize at the Sandwich site this team were then well positioned to spin-out with a wide network of external contacts. Practical support provided by Pfizer, Southeast Innovation and growth and others also helped with this transition. Discovery Park is a central location for the Team members who used to work for Pfizer on site
You’ve described it as a ‘dating agency for scientists’ – tell us what you do?
This is a bit of an oversimplification. Our wide network of contacts does enable us to make productive connections – effectively dating. Our depth of Drug Discovery expertise enables us to advise on the optimal strategy and partner. Our Scientific project management, contracting and logistics support then helps ensure effective delivery of a collaboration.
Drug Discovery is becoming increasingly distributed as Pharmaceutical companies align with research and medical centres and biotechnology companies and academic groups take on an increasing proportion of discovery effort. The distributed nature of this research brings challenges in terms of access to scientific expertise, communication, logistics, and contracts across the industry, and formation of The Research Network is a response to this change.
What do you hope to achieve and how will this benefit the local area?
We are building a back-office function at the Discovery Park to provide a hub for TRN activities with 4-5 administrative staff in the first instance. This function currently supports the scientific work of 15 Network Partners plus an additional group based in the US and this group is growing. This will help retain Drug discovery expertise at the Sandwich Discovery Park site with strong links to other centres of Drug Research globally.
You and your team were all based at Pfizer, what did you do?
Everyone in TRN has a long track record of Drug Discovery and Development with Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies. Each member of the team bringing unique skills covering Biology, Chemistry, Drug Metabolism, Drug Safety, Formulation and associated functions. The TRN team also have general experience in outsourcing and scientific informatics.
How does it feel to still be based on the park when all your former colleagues are leaving?
It has been hard to see friends and colleagues leaving and once vibrant parts of the site becoming empty but on the positive side the majority of folks have been able to find good jobs elsewhere and it has been pleasing to be able to witness the first signs of recovery on the site with a range of spin outs forming and other companies moving onto site. These companies will have a range of gaps in their expertise and are a natural fit with TRN providing the flexible resource as needed. It is in part by making these connections that scientific aspects of the site can be rejuvenated.