What it’s like to work on clinical trials

Graduating in Biochemistry with Industrial Experience in 2017, Kai Hove has been out of the University of Manchester ‘bubble’ for just over a year now. As a Study Manager at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Kai has been affiliated with the Pharmaceutical company since his placement with them as part of his degree. Here, he explains what his day to day duties are as a Study Manager and offers advice to those who are currently studying Biochemistry…

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Highlights and challenges of the course

As far as challenges go, do 9 AM lectures count? The biggest highlight was
definitely securing my first choice industrial placement at GSK. It gave me a much
needed break from academic life and also set me up in terms of new skills and
future directions, giving me a window into new places I could go with my degree
that I would never have previously considered.

Post-degree

After graduating I completed a masters in Drug Discovery and Development at
Imperial College London. I was curious about the prospect of doing a PhD and also
wanted to dive deeper into basic science. While I enjoyed the lab work I wasn’t fully
sold on the idea of doing a doctorate and ultimately found myself more drawn to
industry. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position at GSK in the same
department where I completed my industrial placement. My current role is office based
and involves coordination of late phase clinical trials for a new investigational medicine to treat HIV infection.

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Day to day duties

The role of a study manager is, in the broadest sense, to work to ensure that a trial
is delivered on time, with complete and scientifically robust data, while ensuring
that all patients’ rights and safety is looked after in the process. No small
undertaking! The job is deeply teamwork-oriented, and I work closely with
members from a number of different line functions (e.g. data management, clinical
sciences, regulatory affairs, supplies…) as needed, and a lot of it is dealing with
unforeseen issues as they crop up in order to keep the project on track. That being
said, there really is no such thing as a typical day in clinical trials. I’m still learning,
but the job is a lot like building a car while you’re driving it, because every day
brings something new.

Highlights of the job

I like that there are so many opportunities to learn, not just on the job in your own
role but also about different disease areas, other line functions and areas of the
organization. It also helps with motivation to think that you can play a small part in
delivering something that could potentially have a real impact on patient care.

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My advice

Generally speaking, I would unreservedly recommend that everyone do an
industrial placement. I can’t really overstate how valuable it is, and I have yet to
speak to a single person that regretted doing one. Aside from that, don’t
underestimate the importance of extracurricular activities, volunteering and being
proactive about exploring your career options early on. Good academic
performance is solid a first step, but showing that you are engaged and wellrounded
is what will set you apart down the line.


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