Biopharmaceutical Development masters student case study at University of Leeds

Rachel Innis

About your course/programme

1.       Why did you choose to come to Leeds University to study the above course?

I graduated from the University of Oxford in 2017 with a BA Honours Biomedical Sciences degree, and knew I wanted to continue in science, but wasn’t sure a PhD was for me, and didn’t know how to get into industry.

I had considered other Masters courses at other highly reputable universities, but most were too generic and I didn’t think they would give me anything much more than my undergraduate degree had.

I had contacts at the University of Leeds and lived within commuting distance so decided to see what they had to offer, and was delighted to find several courses I liked the sound of, but MSc Biopharmaceutical Development really jumped out at me because of the industry contacts and 1-year paid placement in industry too. It seemed perfectly tailored to be a stepping-stone into industry, getting the perfect balance of teaching and own research to move away from university into a career.

2.       What did you enjoy about your course?

The way this course is laid out is designed to show you every aspect of biopharmaceutical drug development, in approximately the order it would happen in practice. This meant each module built well from previous ones and allowed them to form a picture of the industry process as a whole, whilst also getting really in depth into each area.

Having practical lab sessions spaced out across the two semesters was also helpful to perform experiments in line with what we were learning in lectures.

3.       What have been the highlights of the course?

The level of industry contact has been astounding. From day one we had senior staff from Covance teaching us, and being such a small course our lectures were very interactive and flexible, meaning we learnt so much more about the industry and what it’s really like on a day-to-day basis. The industry lecturers were also really keen to help us get relevant experience, and often recounted examples they had done in their work that related to what we were being taught. Additionally, we had two site visits, one to Covance in Harrogate and one to Fujifilm in Billingham, which allowed us again to see what we had learnt in practise, and speak to more industry experts, who all seemed really interested in what our course was teaching.

4.        What was your greatest challenge throughout your course?

The most challenging part of this course was the change in assignments from my undergraduate degree. I had gone from doing only short essays by myself to doing groups projects on a much bigger scale, with a huge variety of tasks. Adapting to the assignment structures and expectations was tough, but I think it has enabled me to understand much better the kind of work I would be doing in a career in this field.

5.       What is your research project on and what has it involved?

My research project will involve working on analytical testing and method development of a toxin-based therapeutic at Ipsen. This will involve using several protein-analysis techniques to characterise the structural integrity, identify how the therapeutic degrades, and what impact the manufacturing and formulation processes have on its propensity for degradation.

6.       How do you think doing a research project has benefited/will benefit you in the future?

This research project will provide the grounding in fundamental skills needed to start a career in this industry. It will introduce me a wide range of core techniques and allow me to grow my skillset both in and out of the lab. Working at Ipsen will allow me to experience working as part of a team, working on projects that have potentially global reach.


About the University

1.       Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I chose the University of Leeds primarily for the course it offered, but I was also very impressed by the involvement and care shown by the academics and supporting staff on the interview day. I knew Leeds was a great city to be a student and the campus had incredible facilities as well.

2.       What have been the highlights of your time at the University of Leeds?

The highlights of my time here has been the level of contact with the academic and industry staff, and the feeling of value in the assignments and module content. All industry staff are very involved and the relatively small cohort size means the level of one-on-one contact is significant, and all staff are willing to help you as much as you need.

3.       How have the facilities (libraries/labs etc.) helped you get the most out of your degree?

The postgraduate section of the Edward Boyle library has been an invaluable resource for me. It provides a nice space to work, with plenty of seats and 20 rooms to do group work including facilities to link a laptop to a big screen in each room. These rooms in particular were fundamental to our ability to have productive group work sessions and were very easy to book and use. Being able to use the equipment in the labs of the university researches was also incredible, given some of it was beyond even what I had used in my undergraduate project, and was also of the type that would be used in industry.

4.    What key aspects of your experience of Leeds would you highlight to students thinking about coming do the same course?

The team of staff that work to run this course are what make it as enjoyable an experience as I have found it. The complexity and unfamiliarity of the material on this course to everyone, whatever their background, could have made it a difficult and stressful experience, but all staff were always available to help clarify things, took on feedback immediately, and were genuinely wanting to make this course run as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.

Particularly being able to talk to industry professionals, being able to email them and talk to them about your concerns, was an invaluable resource, for example I had a phone conversation with the Global Scientific Head of Covance asking for advice about what project I should do, and she took the time to talk to me about my ambitions and career and help me decide how to proceed.

5.    What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have specific career plans? Has the University (careers centre/lecturers etc.) helped you with these goals in any way?

Before I started this course I had no idea really what I wanted to do, only that I loved science and wanted to work in the field of biomedical sciences. This course has given me a firm idea of not only what I want to do, but also how to achieve it and what I need to progress in my chosen field. Being able to talk to industry professionals about their day-to-day jobs also helped me envision what I wanted for myself.