Making a career transition: Doctor to Drug Development

James Warburton, Medical Director, Novartis: Drug development

James Warburton, UK Oncology Medical Director, Novartis, on why he made the transition from doctor to drug development.

What is your background?

Prior to joining the pharma industry, I received my medical degree at Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Medical School and practiced as a physician in hospital medicine in both the United Kingdom and Australia. I joined Novartis in 2010 and have experience of medical affairs, drug development and leadership experiences including a Global Program Medical Director position at Novartis’ Basel HQ and my most recent leadership appointment as UK Medical Director for Oncology.

What first attracted you to working in the pharma industry?

Like many, I viewed hospital medicine as a vocation but became increasingly interested in the science of drug development, particularly with the advent of biologic therapies. I spoke with many people working in the industry to understand the strategic and operational aspects of their work. What really appealed to me was the opportunity to continually develop knowledge and skills, and at the same time work in an environment where entrepreneurial thinking is actively supported.

Why did you choose to work at Novartis?

At Novartis, the medical affairs and clinical development teams work very closely together enabling our teams to be subject matter experts and maximise the value of our medicines for patients. It also enables many opportunities for career development. I have been fortunate enough to work in roles in both functions and have learned so much from the experience.

What opportunities does the company offer you?

There is an exciting opportunity to work within a passionate team, where curiosity and enterprise are rewarded, and with people who genuinely want to make a positive impact on healthcare. As the team I work with has grown, I’ve also enjoyed the increasing opportunities to support the development of highly motivated and talented people.

What does a typical day look like?

There is no typical day. My role has huge variety, which is one of the aspects I really enjoy!

Have you had a mentor/s during your career, and if so, how have they influenced you?

Throughout my career I’ve worked with many people who have inspired me in different ways, and their willingness to offer advice and guidance is very humbling. I often find myself encouraging others to make the most of these opportunities to grow and develop.

What advice would you give to a young person thinking about entering the pharmaceutical industry?

Be curious and do your research! Speak to people in the industry, find out about the roles available and be honest with yourself about your personal motivations.

What are your career ambitions?

To keep learning and working with talented people in an inspired and encouraging environment, so we can deliver projects that have a positive impact for patients.

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