MedImmune Exec Shares 4 Life Science Career Tips


Jane Osbourn, vice president of Research & Development for Biosuperiors at MedImmune, an AstraZeneca company, shares some key career tips for life science employees.

Osbourn also manages MedImmune’s campus in Cambridge. In addition, she is also chair of the UK’s Bioindustry Association and a board director of Babraham Bioscience Technologies and of Cambridge Enterprise.

She received her first degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge (UC), a PhD in plant molecular virology from the John Innes Institute in Norwich, and took post-doctoral work at Rutgers University in New Jersey and with the British Heart Foundation.

Osbourn joined Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT) in 1993 and took part in a team focused on antibody drug candidates. The technology eventually led to the molecule that became AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis blockbuster Humira. CAT was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2007.

Osbourn recently took time out to discuss her career with the European Pharmaceutical Review and to provide advice to women (and men) in the life sciences. Her advice includes:

1. Concentrate on the science

Osbourn says, “Great science is an entrepreneurial endeavor, and any great entrepreneur will tell you that when you’re pursuing a new venture, risk and reward go hand in hand; development of a potentially lifesaving medicine is no different.”

In that regard, she said, “My advice is, don’t sit around thinking about what won’t work; rather, be willing to take smart risks in the pursuit of great science. Not everything will work — that’s drug development — but as I always tell my teams: we follow the science.”

2. Follow your strengths

She notes, “From my personal experience I think the biggest barriers I have experienced were actually self-imposed; once I realized that the answer was to pursue the ideas I strongly believed in, I pursued them relentlessly.”

3. Believe in yourself

Osbourn says, “Trust in the process and your skills. If you have the right qualifications, you will be in the right role.”

4. Be a smart risk-taker

A number of studies have noted that high-achieving students, often valedictorians of their high school classes, are typically very successful, because they’re willing to work hard. But they’re also rule-followers, with the result being they don’t always take risks. Studies have noted the valedictorians are often highly successful, but not usually the type to go and create a new category or company that challenges the current paradigm. Osbourn says, “Don’t be afraid to take smart risks, but at the same time work smarter and harder.”

When asked about successful women in the life sciences, Osbourn notes that AstraZeneca and MedImmune are unusual in that about half of their employees are female and that leadership is similarly diverse. But, the life science industry has a long way to go. She points out that 75 percent of biotech companies have at least one women in C-level management roles, which is good, but 20 percent have no women in any leadership role, and about 65 percent of biotech companies also have no women on their boards.

When asked how to addresses those imbalances, she proposed two things:

· First, “We need to keep girls interested in science, technology and mathematics during their early years of study and nurture an excitement for following a career in these subjects.” That includes a commitment to STEM programs at the local level.

· Second, Osbourn says, “We have to continue working to keep women in the field, which can be done by supporting women at all stages of their careers who need time away from the workplace to raise a family. I personally have an open-door mentoring policy, where anyone regardless of level or experience can discuss any subject matter with me. I really believe that it is the duty of every person to guide and cultivate the skillset of the younger generation so they are poised to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

MedImmune Career Opportunities

MedImmune and AstraZeneca have numerous job opportunities in the U.S. and around the world. A few examples are:

R&D Associate I/II for MedImmune, Gaithersburg, Maryland. There appears to be several positions open. The Research Associate I calls for a Bachelor’s Degree with one to three years of industry experience or a Master’s Degree with zero to two years of experience. The Research Associate II positions calls for a Bachelor’s with two to five years of industry experience or a Master’s Degree with one to three years of experience. The positions would be with the company’s Analytical Sciences department to perform analytical testing of clinical stage drug product.

Bispecific Antibody Engineering and Development Scientist I/II in Gaithersburg. The candidate will support the design and development of novel bispecific antibodies. The level I position calls for a PhD in biological science or related field with three or more years’ post-degree experience. The Scientist II positions calls for a PhD in biological science or related field with five or more years’ post-degree experience. Both call for a strong scientific background in bispecific antibody engineering.

Associate Director, R&D for MedImmune in Mountain View, California. This position calls for a Master’s Degree with 10 to 12 years of experience, or a Bachelor’s Degree with 12 or more years of experience. The candidate will oversee the company’s global Translational Sciences Timeline Management function.

Scientist II/Senior Scientist, Late-stage formulation development for MedImmune in Gaithersburg. This is a scientific and strategic leadership role for the company’s late-stage Drug Product formulation development of its biologics portfolio. The Scientist II position calls for a Bachelor’s of Science in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, engineering or related field with a minimum of 13 years of experience, or a Master’s of Science with a minimum of 10 years of experience, or a PhD with a minimum of three years of experience. The Senior Scientist role calls for the same degrees, but with 15 years of experience for the Bachelor’s, 13 years of experience for the Master’s and seven years of experience for a PhD.

Osbourn notes, “The conversation needs to focus on diversity as a whole and in all forms — gender, culture, education, experience. Diversity of thought and experience is what allows collaboration and innovation to thrive. I see this in many aspects of my work, and especially on the various boards and managerial teams I contribute to. Hearing from different perspectives and creating an environment which encourages those perspectives to be aired is critical to success and encourages us to take bold decisions and be open to evolving our business.”

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