July 2002
Ian Miller
"Keep it clean, and no mention of being at university with me – I've got a career to think of!!" said your ACDM Newsletter Editor when she asked me for my profile. I'm not sure what she's referring to exactly, but I'll add a little detail later!
Where do you start with a profile "I was born..." or "We lived in a cardboard box..."? Let me start by telling you about how and why I got here – to this article-writing bit. I'll skip the first 18 years of my life, and start with the time I secured a place at the University of Liverpool studying a generic biology degree. This through the selection of courses along the way, allowed a choice of honours project in the third year. So as a 'generic' biologist I studied genetics, some botany and lots of the un-vocational zoology that ended up being my final year choice for my honours school. Why... because I enjoyed it!
My fascination was and still is in the more out of the ordinary parts of zoology. I'm not a fluffy mammals man but enjoy those documentaries on television that look at ant colonies or, a particular favourite of mine – parasitology. So for my honours project I worked with rather a nasty human parasite – Schistisome worms and the snails and mice they infect at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine – an experience I enjoyed immensely! This was nearly my career choice as I narrowly failed to secure a PhD studentship looking at worm parasites at the University of Leeds. However, the guy who got the job had worked on nematodes rather than my trematodes; I've never bothered to look up the difference either!
There was also a certain Lisa Goodwin (your Editor) on the course with whom I, along with around ten others (and lots more on other occasions), visited local and not so local hostelries – a habit I've not really got out of. (I don't think that revelation will affect her career too much!)
From my nematode failure I found myself in various academic labs: neurophysiology – sending electricity into isolated dorsal root ganglion cells (yawn!), biochemistry looking at muscle damage after tourniquet (good but no more grant money) and finally working in Otorhinolaryngology or Ear, Nose and Throat looking at snot! You don't have to re-read it – I spent two years examining nasal mucus, nasal mucosa and, when life got more interesting, running immunoassays getting liquid nitrogen burns along the way. However, it did give me my first involvement in a clinical trial (from co-investigator to statistician and everything in between) for which I am very grateful as it gave me a goal to aim for i.e. the pharmaceutical industry.
After several unsuccessful applications I fell into data management (I know I'm not alone!) at Pfizer Central Research where I spent a very happy six and a half years. I worked mostly in phase I/II there working on late clinical pharmacology trials i.e. interaction studies and the like running in parallel to the phase III trials. I worked on compounds in the erectile dysfunction, migraine and antifungal therapeutic areas, which gave me quite a broad education. I also developed my interest in project and people management as my role grew from "hands-on" data management to leading a team of data managers and SAS programmers based at a CRO.
Having got to this point I was looking for something new. It wasn't that I was bored; in fact it wasn't that at all – "fire fighting" would be more appropriate, it was that I needed a new challenge. At that time, although I tried, Pfizer wasn't able to give me something different to get my teeth into and so I took to actually reading the bumf I got through every so often from the ACDM. (You know you should try it – there's some good stuff in here!)
AstraZeneca in leafy Cheshire, one of the few northern pharma outposts were advertising for a Global Data Manager to lead a DM team, requiring 7 years experience and a strong interest in project management. Right up my alley, so I applied and in September 2000 I joined AstraZeneca to work on their cholesterol-reducing drug. They were in the last stages of the NDA and MAA submissions so I joined at a very exciting time! And, as many of you will know, the programme doesn't stop with submission so there was, and still is, lots to do – quiet moments are few and far between!
AstraZeneca prides itself in helping its staff maintain a 'work-life balance' – so what is the life part? Well food and drink is fairly central to everyone's existence but more so to mine as I particularly enjoy trying lots of different (and unusual) beers, wines and occasionally spirits. Not necessarily in large quantities but definitely to savour the taste! I also enjoy eating lots of different food from all parts of the world and have even taken to cooking it as well, although my girlfriend Ruth is far superior in this respect; I make a fairly good sous-chef and washer-upper though!
As for the ACDM, after working on the Newsletter Committee for around a year while at Pfizer I decided to increase my input into the Association. I recently joined the Board of Directors, as we have to call ourselves now ("company limited by guarantee" and all that) and have attended two meetings to date. I haven't yet made a real contribution but look forward to doing so in the future. This article may well be a start...
Ian Miller
Member, ACDM Board of Directors