Meet Gemma Forrest – Pre-Clinical Scientist

Read about Gemma's passion to makes a difference to animal welfare

Medicines Discovery Catapult

Which team do you work in and what does that team do?

I work in Discovery, as part of the Pre-clinical Imaging team – all of my work involves the use of animals, so my particular role is quite specific.

What’s your role within your team?

I am a Pre-Clinical Scientist. My role focuses on helping to set up, plan and provide animal support / welfare for all of our studies.

I am also the licensee for all the animals in our care and have the responsibility of performing the license procedures we need.

In three words, what would best describe your team?

A hardworking, fun and supportive team – I couldn’t ask for a better team to work with.

What attracted you to the drug discovery industry and Medicines Discovery Catapult?

For me, personally, it’s to do with career progression – when I was looking at joining MDC, there was a huge potential to learn a lot of new things – I’ve gained exposure in areas such as, cell culture, drug development, making formulations and carry out more hands-on work on in vitro laboratory work.

It was a role that was very different to my previous positions; I am now a licensed PIL with a lot more responsibility for the animals, especially with me being the only animal technician.

I have the freedom to make changes – where I’ve worked in the past, they’ve never been particularly quick to take on any ideas/changes, whereas, here, at MDC, it is hugely encouraged. They’ve given me the chance to add all these great things, all the things I’ve always wanted to do in my role – from something as small as changing enrichment.

A lot of companies have the standard enrichments, but I always wanted to give more, so I introduced three to extra treats. It costs a small amount more, everything we put in obviously comes at a cost but as a company, that’s something they see as a benefit, and they are happy to support – at the end of the day, it’s a welfare improvement.

It is actually fantastic to be able to do that and utilise my 12 years of experience in animal care – being able to implement changes to make things better is amazing!

What do you aspire to achieve in this industry?

Again, for me, it’s not about knowing everything, it’s about being the best at what I do. I like to make a difference to animal welfare, improve their welfare.

If I could do something better, I’ll do it.

Tell us about any work you’ve done that you’re most proud of.

The work I am most proud of has got to be my NC3Rs – this is the reduction, refinement and replacement of the use of animals; a well-known principle and is massively encouraged throughout all of the laboratory animal units.

I worked on a piece focused on improving the welfare of mice. I created a scientific poster and did some research on refining the way that we detect ovarian tumours. We came up with a system to be able to detect tumours earlier, meaning the animals didn’t go as far as tumour development stage before they were removed from the study. This helps with any unnecessary pain and suffering.

I had to prepare a short presentation to discuss the poster and explain my research – it was a huge step for me as I have never done public speaking before, I would always avoid it where I could. So, it was a great achievement to be able to present my work at the event, well enough for me to come first plan. It definitely gave me some confidence and was a proud moment for me, both personally and in a work capacity.

How do you stay connected with what’s happening in the industry?

There are several ways I stay connected with what’s happening in the industry, animal focused, of course – the Institute of Animal Technology (IAT), the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board and my friends from different facilities.

The IAT regularly put on a lot of webinars, events and give us regular updates with their newsletter and the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board host meetings three to four times a year; essential updates are shared.

If you could swap your job with anyone in the world, who would you swap with?

I would be a Rockstar – to be specific, Steve Tyler from Aerosmith, but obviously back in his earlier days.

Tell us something you like doing outside of work.

My number one favourite thing to do is my girl’s day out with my little sister and a boy’s day out with my little brother. We do one every month, almost.

I usually take my little sister Lilly for the day, we usually go to Build-a-Bear, get some food and go shopping.

My little brother is a little easier, we spend the day playing Laser Quest and in the arcades.

It’s what I look forward to the most, spending time with my siblings.

Meet more of our pre-clinical imaging experts – Juliana Maynard, Lead Scientist shares her 12 years’ experience of working in imaging and her proudest work to date.