A talented young scientist has many options when it comes time to choose a career: from universities to corporations, any organisation with the goal of conducting state-of-the-art scientific research is looking for the best and brightest young minds. For Dr Andrew Thomas, this life-changing decision became a simple one as soon as he had his first interviews at Roche. Today, he is Head of Medicinal Chemistry, Neuroscience, at Pharma Research and Early Development, Roche Innovation Center Basel.
Born and raised near the northeast coast of Scotland, Dr Thomas’ ambition from an early age was to go out into the world and use his deep interest in chemistry and medicine to help people in need. After studying at St. Andrews and Cambridge, Dr Thomas was weighing his career options. The logical choice seemed to be a career in academia: after all, Dr Thomas had a passion for teaching and mentoring students alongside his love of research. But things changed when he went to interview for a medicinal chemistry position at Roche. “I had an immediate strong and authentic affinity to the outstanding scientists I met during my interviews,” he says. “I was convinced [that] by joining Roche I would be able to get the best of both worlds – the ability to mentor young scientists while also having a direct impact on healthcare innovations.”
No two Roche colleagues are the same, but our diversity condenses to one common goal and purpose.
Today, Dr Thomas is a part of the Basel Chemistry Leadership Team and co-chairs the Global Extended Medicinal Chemistry Leadership Team. His key tasks are to discover and develop new medications in the therapeutic areas of neuroscience and neuroscience-related rare diseases. He is also responsible for a very competitive and intense medicinal chemistry internship program that offers the most talented chemistry students from the best European universities the opportunity to conduct their Master’s degree theses in our laboratory teams. Dr Thomas is also a member of the Non Clinical Drug Safety Drug Committee - a key global team within Roche that governs the safety of new molecular entities entering clinical development. Dr Thomas’ work has been recognised by more than 40 scientific publications; his record boasts 6 major contributions to textbooks and 60 patents. His research work has been honoured with the prestigious Leo Sternbach Medal for Innovation and Creativity as well as the Gold Medal for Inventions. In 2007, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Dr Thomas has lived in the Basel area since accepting his first position at Roche in 1999. A cycling enthusiast, he relishes the opportunity to ride in the challenging Swiss mountains to help others: his last adventures raised more than 30,000 CHF for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, and he recently completed the TorTour Switzerland non-stop endurance race, where he led the Roche Riders cycling team. Despite his demanding job responsibilities, he captained the Roche football team for ten years, and now takes great pride in coaching the Roche Seniors football team. Still, his love of science rises above all his other passions. He loves working at Roche because “you are encouraged to act and think different, and focus on your specific competencies that one day will be translated into a new medicine.”
He sums up his job simply: “Doing now what patients need next.”