Women in Science: Sygnature Discovery's Jane Kendrew and how she came to enjoy every day at work

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Women in Science Pharmacology Research Drug discovery

Jane Kendrew changed paths after a year of her first degree knowing it was exactly the right way for her. She left university with a first class honours degree and turned down the offer of a PhD to start her dream job as a research scientist.

She is now director of translational oncology, at Sygnature Discovery. OSP interviewed Jane to find out more about her career journey - from school to where she is now. 

Could you give us an overview of your work?

As a department, we work with academics, biotechs and large pharma to support critical aspects of their drug discovery project that they are unable to support internally, either due to lack of the specialised capability or where resources are limited.

We work with each client to understand their research, what they are trying to achieve, what their next milestone is and design and execute a package of work which will enable them to answer key questions for their project. We aim to generate a compelling package of data which demonstrates the therapeutic under evaluation works by the mechanism that is hypothesized and that inhibiting their target leads to a therapeutic response.

When did you realize you were interested in science - as a young child, teen, or older?

I much preferred science to other subjects at school, and was especially interested in biology. Biology was a subject that I found easy to relate to, my biology teacher made the subject come alive, and he inspired and encouraged me to follow my dream of becoming a research scientist.

Could you describe your personal journey bringing us to where you are now?

I knew in my teens that I wanted a career in science and specifically drug discovery, so choosing subjects to study at A level was easy. The next step was into a degree in Pharmacology, which I thought was the right degree to do, but I quickly realised it wasn’t the right choice for me. I completed my first year, passed all my exams and then moved to Nottingham Trent and started all over again. Whilst this set my timelines back by 12 months, it was absolutely the right thing to do. I graduated with a first class honours degree, had an offer to study for a PhD, but when I was offered a job at ICI Pharmaceuticals as a research scientist, my dream job, I jumped at the chance to start my career discovering new drugs. This was the start of a long career in large pharma, during which time, I learnt so much about drug discovery, I worked alongside inspirational scientists, on numerous research projects and I achieved my career goal of working on a project which resulted in a marketed drug.

In 2017 I faced a tough decision of whether to continue in large pharma or leave, I took the decision to leave. I had been formulating a business plan to set up a bespoke oncology pharmacology service at Alderley Park, the owners of Alderley Park liked the idea and backed the plan, Alderley Oncology was formed. After 2 very successful years in business, we were acquired by Sygnature Discovery. Since then, I’ve been able to continue my career journey within Sygnature, establishing my department within the broader business offering and building a fantastic team of scientists that I enjoy working with every day.

What challenges did you face - as a woman or otherwise - along the way and what is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

In the workplace, I’m pleased to say I have never encountered challenges or biases related to my gender. I have been very lucky to work with people who have valued me for who I am and my capabilities. What is equally important to me however is that I don’t feel I have been given opportunities I shouldn’t have had, because of my gender. I’ve had a very successful career in science thanks to my capabilities, not because I’m a woman.

I have at times been subjected to academic bias, but my approach to this has always been to be open and honest, and let my abilities as a scientist and my track record speak for me.

Probably the most important lesson that I learnt very early on in my career was to be a team player. Regardless of what anyone might think, science is a team sport, projects, organisations, leaders succeed with the contribution and support of the team around them.

What ignites your passion in your current role?

What I enjoy most about my current role is the ability to work across multiple client projects, generating pivotal pieces of data that can change the direction of a project, help secure further funding or support the successful transition of projects into their next phase of drug discovery. It’s the variety of the work, the impact we can have on a clients project and the team that I work with that makes me want to come to work every day. 

What is your current work ethos/style?

We work in an environment which is highly regulated and demands a very high level of responsibility and accountability.  Creating the right culture in such a working environment is critical, it's important we work as a team, people are able to be open and honest, that we build trusting relationships and from my perspective especially, that I am accessible to everyone within the department. It’s very important to me that everyone feels supported in their role and that help and advice is always there when needed. Equally, it's important that everyone feels they are part of the team, are valued for their contributions and that their ideas and opinions count.

Could you share some advice for young women starting to develop an interest in science or wanting to pursue a career like yours?

Follow your dreams, work is such a major part of your life, make sure you do something which inspires you. But also, don’t be afraid of making major changes in your career if your chosen path ultimately doesn’t feel right for you. Don’t stereotype yourself or let others do that to you. Focus on your strengths and what you bring to a role, work on being the best you can be.

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