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Jessica Jia – a successful career in clinical trials

After working exclusively in clinical oncology, Jessica made the exciting decision to transition into neuroscience clinical research in early 2017. She is thrilled to be part of the Neuroscience Trials Australia (NTA) team and is ‘excited to play a role in the development of innovative treatments and to be part of ongoing research in the neuroscience space’.

While she has held various roles in contract research organisations, small biotechs and big pharma across cardiology, dermatology, haematology, oncology and orthopaedics she says, ‘I much prefer the work culture of a smaller company, which is more focused on the individual, where staff can become a jack of all trades in what they do.’ Jessica enjoys the challenge that comes with working in a different therapeutic area.

As a project manager at NTA Jessica works across multiple neurological diseases and conditions. Jessica is part of the team investigating a first-in-class novel therapy from an American biotechnology company designed to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other, a project investigating Macular Telangiectasia (a disease that affects the macula and causes loss of central vision), with a focus on orphan drug designation by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Her advice to people wanting to pursue a career in clinical trials is to ‘get as much relevant experience as possible’, adding that it is ‘helpful having knowledge of industry standards such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP).’

In the demanding world of clinical trials, she notes that it is critical to be not only organised, but flexible. ‘Things change very quickly, e.g. new indications, advances in new technology/systems, and you need to be able to adjust smoothly and quickly’.

When asked what she feels has been a highlight of her career in the clinical trials field, she reflected on ‘the rise of immunotherapy, specifically following the number of new clinical trials coming through and seeing the many great results for patients firsthand, e.g. complete responses to treatment’.

On a more personal note, Jessica was born in China, attending primary school there until Grade 2. She says that during this time in China, she was the only left hander in her entire primary school. Schools in China enforce writing with the right hand only, but because the school knew that she was soon to immigrate to Australia, she was exempt from this rule. To this day Jessica remains a ‘lefty’.