Meet Helen, Global Head Biosample Operations - pRED


Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Helen, I have worked in early clinical development and clinical operations at Roche for 20 years in various roles focused on clinical study, programme and portfolio delivery across a wide range of therapy areas. Earlier in my career, after obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Life Sciences, I worked as a Study Director in pre-clinical toxicology in a large UK CRO working on studies with multiple international Pharma clients. During this time I also studied part time and gained an MSc in Pharmaceutical Biochemistry. 

In which Roche location do you currently work and what can you tell us about that location as a work environment? 

 I work in Welwyn where we have a wonderful work environment with open plan office space and access to a light filled informal meeting area in "The Street". The office building is located on an office park (great for parking) where you can walk into the town centre in a few minutes, or use the free bus service, to access all the shops and amenities of Welwyn Garden City.

Why did you decide to join Roche and why at this location?

I decided to join Roche as I wanted to move into the clinical phase of drug development and experience working for a global Pharma company.

What is your current position at Roche?

My current role is Global Head of Biosample Operations in the Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) group. I lead a global team of around 14 people and collectively we are responsible for the collection of all biospecimens taken in the pRED clinical trials around the globe. This involves ensuring biosampling strategies are designed and implemented in an operationally realistic way, doctors and nurses are trained appropriately in our biosample collection requirements and that all legal and ethical requirements are met for sample collection and analysis. This requires a high level of team work with various experts across the Roche organisation as well as with external partners in specialist laboratories performing analyses. We are constantly looking to improve our processes and reduce patient burden by reducing the complexity of biosample collection whilst balancing the needs of the pioneering science we support. As a leader within a global, ever changing organisation and clinical trial landscape, I strive to foster a culture of open communication, knowledge sharing and continuous professional development amongst team members, to ensure we deliver exceptional results. I am personally motivated and excited by the opportunity to make a positive impact for patients and their experience of participating in a pRED clinical trial. 

How would you describe Roche as an employer?

Roche is a fantastic employer and has enabled me to have many varied opportunities for personal growth and development. Roche supports a culture where employees are encouraged to give time back to their communities through volunteering as well as motivating the next generation of scientists through supporting many ambassadors of the UK STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative and sponsoring local events, a culture and philosophy which I value. Roche further demonstrates how it values it's employees and supports wellbeing through supporting flexible working to adjust working hours to fit with global time zones as well as the ability to work from home in line with business needs.

How would you describe the people working here?

Talented and highly motivated team focused people. Roche's mission statement is "doing now what patients need next" and I truly find people are engaged and excited to play their part in developing medicines to meet the needs of patients.

How is your job connected to “doing now what patients need next”?

In my role, I have the patient at the heart of all my thinking. Within a clinical trial, patients consent to give biosamples (blood, tumour, skin samples, etc.) which causes some discomfort and sometimes pain on their part. I see it as a personal responsibility for myself, and all the people in my team, to ensure that we minimise this pain and discomfort as much as possible, using new technologies where we can, and ensure collection of the highest quality biosamples. We then can gain the maximum information from each and every individual biosample, helping us to generate data that ultimately drives decision making to transform molecules into medicines.

Tags: Career Blog, UK