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Dr Jacqui Waterkeyn – from vaccine development to Clinical Operations

 

Jacqui Waterkeyn_300sq_desaturated

Jacqui is the Head of Clinical Operations at Neuroscience Trials Australia, a niche CRO with a current portfolio of over 40 trials in neuroscience across more than 200 clinical research sites in Australia and New Zealand. The portfolio includes a combination of commercial and investigator-initiated studies. That’s not all, Jacqui is also responsible for the operational activities of nearly 40 staff, including oversight of external approved vendors.  As a committed Pharmaceutical Industry professional, Jacqui explains her passion for her role as being ‘driven by the knowledge that our efforts can influence whole patient communities.’  She continues ‘being part of the complex drug or therapeutic product approval puzzle, where it can have such a positive impact in the short and long term, is an exciting challenge.’

Jacqui has a unique understanding of how to engage development teams based on the expectations of all involved parties as she has cross-sectional industry experience in the pharma, biotech and academic research sectors.

Jacqui started her science career with a PhD in vaccine development at the University of Melbourne Veterinary School, followed by a post-doc in infectious diseases at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. She then strategically developed a niche focus in early phase regulatory affairs and clinical development while working in mental health and neuroscience. So moving to Neuroscience Trials Australia was naturally the next step in her career. She says she really enjoys working at a CRO because ‘being part of a smaller organisation like Neuroscience Trials Australia exposes you to a wide range of clinical research activities that might not otherwise be offered in larger CROs, as your focus in a project is very role selective. Here, we can mentor junior staff and help them develop a wider skill set by providing exposure to a greater range of experiences across the clinical research space.’

Providing new treatment options for the public by assessing the safety and efficacy of novel and state-of-the-art therapeutic goods is what Jacqui does every day. Typically, this involves managing her staff, delivering solutions to clients as well as applying her breadth of experience in regulatory affairs and clinical operations. Jacqui says one of the highlights of her role and one she particularly enjoys is being involved in new and exciting therapies that really have the potential to make a difference. Jacqui also enjoys mentoring junior staff and providing advice to students that come through the organisation for clinical research placements as part of their post-graduate degrees.

Did you know that the CRO’s workforce is predominantly female, with 90% of staff being women?  Jacqui explains that this is not intentional at all, ‘Neuroscience Trials Australia does not deliberately target women in its recruitment. The nature and detail of the work and the flexibility it allows seems to attract women who are still very serious about their careers and want to be recognised, while balancing the busy life of the working mother.’

One of Jacqui’s proudest achievements has been developing and overseeing the implementation of an operational restructure to help employees with flexibility in the workplace as well as facilitating career escalation.

Did you know that Jacqui is also passionate about our planet and is a strong advocate for protecting Planet Earth’s species diversity? She also loves nature photography and outdoor adventures!