Meet Dr Juliana Maynard – Head of Translational Imaging

Juliana shares her 13 years' experience of working in imaging and her proudest work to date


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

I work in Discovery, specifically the pre-clinical imaging team – it’s a great team!

What’s your role within your team?

I engage with our collaborators to understand what their needs are and design their imaging studies to industry standards.

We look at the best type of study for them, the imaging capability they should use, and we make sure we deliver it in a fast and timely manner.

How many years’ experience do you have in pre-clinical imaging?

I’ve got over 13 years’ industry imaging experience.

Before coming to MDC, I worked at AstraZeneca in their preclinical imaging team for almost 10 years. After AstraZeneca, I set up Alderley Imaging with Alderley Park for 2 years before moving to MDC to enhance and increase their imaging capabilities.

How does your role support other functions within the organisation?

I would say that our in vivo imaging capability provides complimentary information to other technologies, for example, we can provide ex vivo tissue samples for mass spectrometry imaging techniques.

We can also utilise all the information we require from one animal – we can take the imaging information, the tissues, the blood and plasma and give that information to the biomarker technology and/or mass spec technology.

It’s giving us the ability to capture the broader picture; combining that functional information that we might get with imaging, to the molecular – articulating and characterising either the drug compounds or the downstream pathways.

In three words, what would best describe your team?

Enthusiastic, tenacious, and hardworking.

The last few months before lock down, it was non-stop – there were a lot of studies going through; the team, Neill, Gemma, and Benedetta always remained enthusiastic and determined.

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

Well, I’ve always loved the drug discovery industry, going right back to when I finished my undergraduate degree. I followed that path and started my first job in pharma. It was fast-paced; you had to move and react quickly–you could see the outcomes of the work you were doing–your aim was to make a difference, and you were making a difference to the patients.

At MDC, I felt that their goal and ambition of getting drugs to patients quicker, getting an outcome of the drugs quicker, would really make a difference. We can be transformational.

What do you aspire to achieve in this industry?

My aspirations is putting the patient first and making a difference to the patient – changing their lives and their family’s lives – getting effective medicines to them faster.

Tell us about the work you’ve done that you are most proud of

I’ve chosen an MDC example for this – last May we were interviewed for and awarded with the Biomarker Catalyst Award, 2 of them actually! Both projects have a clear unmet need.

It was a genuine team effort, and definitely something we are proud of – getting the awards in a high profile, competitive competition and the quality data we get from it. The projects have been running since Christmas now, and will run for about 18 months, so we hope to continue seeing positive results.

We worked as a team, worked together to write the rebuttal, attended the interviews together and to be working on those grants, it’s a fantastic achievement. We’ve got the awards and now we are seeing the deliverables from that!

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

Whilst we’ve been in lockdown, I’ve been taking part in a lot of webinars, either taking part in them, presenting them or joining them. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with both the vendors of the equipment and the imaging scanners that we have, but the wider community too, such as the Bionow webinars.

We do a lot of PubMed searching, go to seminars, and go to conferences – trying to keep in touch with what is happening, and how we can be involved in joining that.

Recently, myself and my colleague presented in the MDC Connects webinars – I did one on tracking and tracing the distribution of a candidate compound and Neill presented on using imaging to assess the pharmacodynamic properties of a candidate compound – check them out.

To date, what’s the most extraordinary or interesting job/project you’ve had in your career?

One of the most extraordinary projects I’ve worked on is an anti-infective project. This was a project in the clinic–where they recorded adverse effects. We needed to retrospectively further characterise and understand the mechanism of action of the drug. We had to be reactive and work at a fast pace to get the answers to influence the clinical development plan.

We had to work across licences, change the protocols we were working on, and bring other departments into the imaging team. Everybody pulled together to get the answers quickly, to understand what that drug was doing, and how it was interacting.

Tell us something you like doing outside of work

My favourite thing to do outside of work is spending time with my children – I love spending time with family.

I enjoy exercising and keeping fit, mainly running, to get your endorphins going. And I think my husband would probably say my most favourite thing is shopping – spending too much money on clothes for me.