This week we meet Vassilis Georgiadis - Principal Partnerships Manager (Pharma and Healthcare) at UCL Innovation & Enterprise - who chats to us about his work on a partnership between UCL and international pharmaceutical company Servier on immuno-inflammatory disease research.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I’m Principal Partnerships Manager (Pharma and Healthcare) in the Business and Innovation Partnerships team at UCL Innovation & Enterprise. My main role involves developing partnerships between UCL researchers and external organisations, with a focus on collaborations relating to life sciences and healthcare. I am not tied to specific UCL faculties or departments and in fact that is one of the best aspects of my job.
Every day is different, projects and queries flow in continuously and my specific actions vary: from scoping for research theme alignment and advising researchers, to developing capability proposals, identifying potential routes of funding, steering agreement development in tandem with UCL legal teams, collaborating with other teams across UCL, such as the Translational Research Office, Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement) and others, as well as teams within UCL Innovation & Enterprise such as UCL Consultants and UCL Business (UCLB).
When your playing field is one of the leading research academic institutions in the world and you are surrounded by outstanding colleagues at every turn, the world is your oyster as they say.
I’m also a member of a number of UCL committees and initiatives, amongst which the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering (IHE) deserves a separate mention. The concepts developing out of, and the people involved in, the IHE are simply tremendous - you only have to look at the recent UCL-Ventura breathing aid development to get an idea of the level of excellence in play.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined UCL in 2016 as a member of the Translational Research Office, also working on academia-industry collaborations but in a more specific Faculty-facing role. I transitioned to my current role at UCL Innovation & Enterprise in 2017. Before that I spent just over a year working with a very talented group of people towards co-founding a UK molecular diagnostics and digital health start-up. Prior to that, I was a molecular and cell biology researcher. Worth noting is that in the past I have been a UCL MSc student, a UCL Pathway Lead (BASc degree) and a postdoc, so I have been lucky enough to view UCL’s excellence from different vantage points.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I’d pick the recent partnership with the international pharmaceutical company Servier on immuno-inflammatory disease research and more specifically on investigating disease pathways in lupus and the development of systemic sclerosis. Aside from the clear potential for the UCL-Servier partnership to help develop much-needed therapies for the treatment of those conditions, which also made this collaboration special for me was the actual journey from initial discussions to agreement.
Not only did the partnership grow organically in a bottom-up manner through mutual discussions between both sides, but it was really something witnessing the growing enthusiasm between researchers on either side as we gradually built the research plans for the two main projects. At the end of the day, an ideal partnership is not only about shared responsibilities and resources but also one that promotes the ethos and importance of co-development. It is collaborations such as that one that make me love what I do.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I am working with the Dean of UCL Social & Historical Sciences, Professor Sasha Roseneil, and researchers across different UCL Faculties towards developing a multi-pronged partnership with a leading global provider of geospatial technology software. This relates to Covid-19 epidemiological surveillance, the importance of which is self-evident. Aside from the truly interdisciplinary input that those partnership discussions have entailed, including epidemiologists, geographers, data analysts and clinicians, it has been an ideal example of swift collaboration between UCL Innovation & Enterprise and other parts of UCL Offices, such as the Office of the Vice- Provost (Research) and Office of the Vice-Provost (Advancement).
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Hmm, I don’t have all-time favourites. If I had to choose, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Replay by Ken Grimwood as novels; 2001: Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick as film... I really can’t pick a favourite album, but Marvin Gaye or Bill Withers would probably be top.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
How does NASA throw a party? They planet.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Stephen Fry, Socrates (the classical philosopher), Quincy Jones, Margaret Atwood, Robin Williams, Martin Luther King, Sir David Attenborough and Melina Mercouri (a titan of Greek arts and culture and a fiery politician). That is the seating plan by the way.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t forget to enjoy life, there is more to it than hard work. Travel as much as you can. Embrace your idiosyncrasies. Before you pass judgment, remember that everyone has a story.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
As a teenager I collected soundtracks, among countless albums, and at the time becoming a movie composer was a dream of mine. Science won me over in the end but my love of music (and soundtracks) continues.
What is your favourite place?
Overall, the islands of my home country, Greece. Two favourite places are Koufonissi for its tranquillity and Crete, with its infinite natural beauty. Outside Greece, definitely Tuscany.