RSA People | British Science Week interview with Dr. Andy TheodorouBy Dr Andy Theodorou
Dr. Andy Theodorou brings a unique profile to executive search, combining a strong and relevant academic & research background in Neuropharmacology with over 20 years executive search experience gained within leading global organisations. Andy has extensive knowledge and interest in several therapeutic areas, particularly in Oncology and Neurosciences, which has enabled him to build a global network of professional contacts working in these areas. Andy has placed senior level executives across most functions, from discovery research and clinical development to commercial and general management. He has a particular focus in R&D, Bioinformatics, Data Sciences, and Market Access. Andy holds a BSc and PhD in Pharmacology and enjoys keeping in touch with recent biomedical developments.
In this feature, Andy talks about his early discovery of science, what has kept his passion and fascination of science alive and how this has helped him to become a trusted advisor in executive search.
When did you discover you had a passion for science and what was it that sparked your interest?
My passion for science was like a slow burning flame that was sparked through a demonstration of the Archimedes’ Principle by my Primary School Teacher. My 10-year-old sense of humour was tickled at the thought of Archimedes running naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting “Eureka” and equally blown away by the theory.
Having spent the early part of my life in Cyprus, we moved to the UK when I was 14, at a point in Cypriot history that saw many families moving away due to the turbulent times. When I arrived, although I didn’t speak much English, that flame of passion for science shone bright. I chose to study Pharmacology at Leeds University, exploring biological systems and how drugs work to treat disease. My inherently curious nature led me in the direction of research. I enjoyed thinking about a particular issue, developing a hypothesis, and working out how to test it. I was lucky enough to win a place at the prestigious Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College to follow a PhD in the Department of Neurology. I worked in a team led by the incredible late Professor Charles David Marsden HonFBPhs whose research interests focused on movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. He published extensively during his life, culminating in the posthumous completion and publication in December 2011 of Marsden’s book of movement disorders, a project he had started in 1984. Our first research paper was published in Nature which was a great accomplishment. We demonstrated in laboratory experiments, a possible explanation why schizophrenic patients treated with anti-psychotic drugs develop symptoms like those seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This was so exciting, and it led to many more interesting discoveries.
Funded by the Wellcome Trust, I pursued a post-doctoral fellowship at St George’s Hospital Medical School which offered a blend of clinical and lab work, exploring the biology of depression and the mechanism of action of anti-depressant drugs. I was, and continue to be, fascinated by exploring the value of early scientific discoveries to understanding complex human biological systems and disease. This has proven to be invaluable in my role as an Executive Search Consultant.
What area of science do you find most fascinating and inspiring?
Like a powerful magnet, I am drawn to unravelling the mystery of what I call ‘The Master Organ’, the human brain. It influences everything we do, both mental and physical, in both health and disease. If we could fully understand our own brains imagine what we could do! We see a real shift now in the medical profession from not just treatment of disease but also prevention, and many of the prevention routes involve the immense and little understood capabilities of our brain.
The Human Genome Project was a truly inspirational international scientific research project with the goal to produce a reference sequence of the human genome. This biological breakthrough was a difficult accomplishment to reach. It took 13 years and contributions from hundreds of scientists. With the information from individual genome maps, scientists not only understand inherited genetic diseases better, but also uncover new clues about a person’s predisposition to complex multi-factorial disorders like depression, anxiety, and addictive tendencies.
The future of scientific discovery and development lies hand in hand with technology. We see how technology has, and will, continue to speed up scientific progress such as the application of analysis of vast quantities of biological information and modelling of biological systems. Universities, Research Centres, Life Science and Tech companies see the potential of bringing together biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers, and physicists. Future scientists will be more technically adept and able to unravel complex biological systems to better understand human disease and develop more effective treatments, ultimately enabling a healthier life.
How has your passion and first-hand experience of science helped you become the trusted advisor you are today?
After a successful career in academia, I wanted to broaden my reach and decided to embark on a career in Executive Search in the Life Sciences Industry. The journey over the last 20 years has been one of continuous learning. It has certainly broadened my understanding of the Life Science Industry, the challenges it faces and the opportunities to develop products and solutions that ultimately help humanity. I have been privileged to meet a huge number of talented people who really drive their business forward. I am passionate about our clients’ business and have always demonstrated a genuine interest in what they are doing, their challenges, and an understanding of the talent they need to move their business forward. This gives them the confidence that I can represent them credibly in the marketplace. I find it easy to build rapport with candidates, particularly those in Research & Development positions. I have a genuine interest in what they are doing and this builds trust in the interaction which is crucial for an open and honest discussion. I want them to feel that I am not only assessing them for the role in discussion, but I can also advise and support them in their career aspirations.
Being a trusted advisor is not just about having knowledge and experience of science and the industry, it’s also about understanding people, taking the time to truly listen, and working together with clients and candidates to help make their journey smooth and successful.
My door is always open to those of you who would like to talk about anything discussed in this article, and equally open to those of you who would like to find out more about working at The RSA Group. You can contact me directly on Andy.Theodorou@theRSAgroup.com.