Kirsty carried out a work placement at Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC) as part of her MSc in Stratified Medicine and Pharmacological Innovation, which she studied at the University of Glasgow.
The one-year course is being developed in conjunction with SMS-IC and aims to create a highly trained workforce that will help address a shortage of skills in stratified medicine, which is a key growth sector in Scotland’s economy. Places on the course are fully funded by the Scottish Funding Council.
What did you do before starting the MSc course?
I had studied a molecular and cellular biology degree at the University of Glasgow and had just graduated with a 2:1.
What made you decide to do the course?
I really enjoyed my undergraduate course and wanted to study further. During my degree, I became interested in precision medicine, and got to read more about how a patient’s genetics predispose them to certain diseases, and how differences in DNA can affect how patients respond to a drug. I knew the MSc would cover this area in detail, and I was also interested in the business-orientated modules, which would teach me about how to actually apply stratified medicine and make it commercially successful. That was something I was really interested in.
What was SMS-IC’s role?
During the teaching modules we got a tour of SMS-IC, which I found fascinating, and I then gained a placement there as a marketing intern, with chief executive Diane Harbison as my supervisor. The placement takes up about a third of the whole course, accounting for 60 credits out of 180. My placement was excellent - being at SMS-IC made me feel like I was at the cutting edge of stratified medicine research. The reason I chose marketing was that I really enjoyed the commercial side of the course, especially the entrepreneurship module. This made me think I would like to do something that focused more on the business aspect of stratified medicine, rather than on the laboratory side of things. As well as enjoying it I was also good at it, so felt I could make a real difference.
What has been your favourite aspect of the course?
The course gave me a really good idea of how drugs come to market, and how stratified medicine could make drug development more effective.
I really enjoyed the ‘regulation and governance of new therapies’ module taught by Dr. James Mittra based at the University of Edinburgh. This was a distance learning course, which helped us understand more about stratified medicine and how it can be applied in real life, and how to make drug discovery commercially successful. My undergraduate course taught us about facts and research, but I did not know how a drug gets from the discovery stage to the market, and ultimately to patients.
What has been the hardest part?
To be honest I really enjoyed most of it, any issues I did have were addressed really quickly. Everyone I knew on the course got something that they wanted out of it.
How have you found the support from SMS-IC?
Diane has been a great supervisor, she was always there for any questions I had, and gave me independence to research ways of achieving the aim of the project while also helping me when I needed it, because marketing was completely new to me! All the staff at SMS-IC have been really welcoming, friendly and helpful, and I really enjoyed the openness of communication between the team.
What advice would you give to others thinking about doing the course?
The course opens up a wide range of new opportunities and makes you really employable. As well as going into lab-based roles, I have friends who are going into more business-orientated careers. I also know people who are going on to study at PhD level in precision medicine, which is a natural progression from the MSc for those who want to study further. The course helps you develop a great sense of commercial awareness as well as scientific acumen.
This is an exciting time to learn and work in stratified medicine. To find out more about the course, which can be studied in Glasgow or Aberdeen, visit https://www.gla.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/stratifiedmedicineandpharmacologicalinnovation/