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Graduate profile: Marianne Ashford

Marianne Ashford is Principal Scientist, Drug Targeting at AstraZeneca.

She completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate research degrees at Manchester.

Marianne's Manchester degree

Marianne knew that she wanted a science career from an early age, and decided to apply for a pharmacy degree at Manchester as she thought the subject would likely lead to a good job.

She got a taste of what it was like to work in the pharmaceutical industry during a short course at a pharmaceutical company in Loughborough during her second year.

"We spent five days immersing ourselves in discovery, development, marketing, regulatory, clinical and medical information, and doing several case histories and mini projects," she says.

"It was a really valuable insight and probably when I realised that I wanted a more scientific/applied research career than I thought I would be offered by community or hospital pharmacy."

Starting research training

Marianne decided to specialise in formulation science and set her sights on a PhD after a split industry/hospital pre-registration year at Glaxo Group Research, in Ware, Hertfordshire and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.

Her PhD focused on a project on oral drug delivery to the colon, with a view to using this route to get peptides delivered orally.

"I really enjoyed my PhD. I think it was probably three of the most enjoyable years of my life and I have many great memories," she says of her time at Manchester.

"I have had the satisfaction of working on several drugs that have made it onto market and are making real differences to patients' lives."

Working in industry

Marianne decided to work in the pharmaceutical industry rather than go into academia, and started off with a role in ICI's Formulation Research group.

She worked her way up to become Team Leader and then Associate Director of a Preformulation and Biopharmaceutics group, influencing candidate drug design and evaluating the physicochemical properties of candidate drugs in the oncology, inflammation and cardiovascular therapy areas.

Later, Marianne moved into project management and led the pharmaceutical development teams in designing the products, supplying clinical trial materials and writing the various regulatory documents.

"I also contributed to the Global Product Development Teams determining the product strategy of a number of AstraZeneca’s oncology development drugs," she explains.

"I was lucky enough to lead projects at all stages of clinical development, as well as support some of our established brands, thus seeing a very different part of the business and global supply chain."

Marianne then returned to a scientific role focusing on exploiting drug delivery approaches initially to improve the therapeutic index of medicines.

"In particular, I have worked closely with the oncology teams to initiate a number of joint projects and collaborations in the nanomedicine area," she says.

"Now with a far more diversified portfolio, investigating delivery systems for successful intracellular delivery is a major challenge."

The present

Marianne has recently been renewing her association with The University of Manchester by taking on the external examiner role for the PIAT (Pharmaceutical Industry Advanced Training) course and joining the team that initiated and launched NoWCADD.

She says that while a lot has changed at Manchester since she was a student, one of the things that remains the same is that the University still "plays an important role in the education of the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists and research into innovative medicines".

What would Marianne say has been the highlight of her journey through the pharmaceutical field?

"My career to date in industry has given me huge variety," she says. "Most importantly, however, I have had the satisfaction of working on several drugs that have made it onto market and are making real differences to patients' lives."