Drug Discovery Leader Dr Nicola Heron on Championing Innovation and Diversity in the Sector

Medicines Discovery Catapult’s newly appointed Chief Business Officer, Dr Nicola Heron MBA sets out her intention to support up-and-coming innovators in early stage drug discovery and to ensure diversity is a key part of the innovation agenda for MDC.

Having spent three years with the Catapult and over 20 years in drug R&D, Dr Heron is committed to empowering the next generation of British life science pioneers, securing the successful future of medicines R&D in the UK.

Dr Nicola Heron, Chief Business Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) said:

“I am delighted to have been appointed as Chief Business Officer at MDC. Helping to unearth and collaborate with companies at the forefront of aspirational and inspirational science is exceptionally rewarding.

“Some of the work we enable across the industry will have a seismic impact on generations to come – it is a privilege to be able to work with colleagues and peers who are pushing boundaries in science and new ways of working across sectors.”

Dr Heron’s successful scientific career has spanned large pharma, working on new therapeutics for oncology, to positions in government funded initiatives and NHS organisations. She returned to higher education as a full-time working mum of two, and received her Executive MBA.

Now heading up the business wing of the Catapult, Dr Heron is charged with supporting entrepreneurship in drug discovery and is relishing the opportunity.

Dr Nicola Heron adds:

“It is my firm aim to draw on MDC’s deep drug discovery knowledge, broad industrial expertise and diversity of skills to drive and facilitate collaborations which are essential to solving the most pressing challenges our sector faces.

“The type of cross-sector working championed by MDC helps to derisk the significant investment required to address the difficult, but high impact job of getting new medicines to people faster.

“Building worthwhile partnerships across the sector that ultimately provide tangible improvements to patients’ lives is what motivated me to join this dynamic sector, and is my absolute priority for this role.”

Diversity underpins creative and innovative thinking. The company has around 60% women in its workforce, and as the first female member of its five-strong senior leadership team, Dr Heron is determined to see more progress for women in senior roles in this science-based organisation.

Dr Nicola Heron says:

Time has changed from when scientists were of a certain age, gender or professional background. MDC is its people and we’re proud of our diverse workforce – in our Discovery workstream, out of 41 scientists, 27 are women, and over 20% of our informaticians are women. Over half of all our staff in MDC’s Lighthouse Lab are women. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done.

“As a sector we need to encourage, develop and mentor more women into senior roles. Female scientists, whether working in research functions or not, play diverse and essential roles across our sector and we should be celebrating the many female luminaries in leadership.

“It is integral to invest in diversity in every form. When people come from a range of backgrounds, they bring with them new perspectives and ideas – this is always positive, and often transformative.”