Prof. John Campbell, PhD
Associate Director, Research and Development
Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, Edinburgh
How many years have you been working in this sector?
26 years post grad. Approximately 20 years in cancer/cellular therapy. Early post graduate work and PhD was on understanding in vivo pathogenesis of veterinary disease, but focussed heavily on in vivo immunology, which transferred well to human disease and treatment
What do you like the most about your job?
Translating the latest scientific findings into the development of new cellular therapeutics to treat patients. To have the infrastructure and team of staff to manufacture a new product based on emerging discoveries. We have the opportunity to collaborate with the very best scientists in the field.
What led you into your current role or career?
Planned Happenstance. I initially had a conventional academic career – Phd/ post doc/lectureship for 11 years. I then worked in the Biotech industry for 11 years, but worked in research, application of techniques to making cellular therapies, and cell analysis. I combine what I learned in both fields to bring to my current role (past 4 years, presumably 7 more to go).
What are the career progression options in this role?
My role is unusual as I am still involved in academic research, as well as having a senior NHS management role. There are probably only a handful of comparable jobs across the UK. The majority of people in head of department roles would likely decide to choose the pure academic or strategic management aspect of the job.
What are the most important skills and experiences that have got where you are today?
In this kind of job, you have to combine understanding of the science with the rigour of a manufacturing mind-set. You also have to make strategic decisions about the skills mix in your team to balance the basic and applied work to be done. I have been growing and analysing cells for 26 years and it’s the aspect of the job that I still like the most, and I would still choose to do most of the time if I could. I think that if you have this genuine interest and desire to understand your subject it will be the most useful thing in any science career.
Any tips or advice you would give to someone thinking of going into this type of career?
This career differs from pure academic jobs in that it offers the opportunity to be involved in very complex laboratory work and experimental design throughout all stages of your career. This is different from pure discovery science, and will not suit all scientists – indeed this works best where basic and applied scientists work together. However, learning how to turn scientific discoveries into something to have a direct, positive effect on health can be very satisfying.