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Award Winning Drug Discoverer On His MBA At Aston Business School

Vincenzo took a part-time MBA alongside his work at GlaxoSmithKline

We spoke to Vincenzo Garzya MBA alumni from Aston business school. He is a pretty important, award-winning scientist who is rising through the management ranks at GlaxoSmithKline.

Vincenzo Garzya was born in Lecce, a city in the heel of Italy. Vincenzo qualified as a ‘Doctor in Organic Chemistry’ at Bologna University. Before graduating Vincenzo set up a career fair where he was poached by a headhunter interested in his background. Vincenzo started at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) where he has been for the last ten years.

During Vincenzo’s career as a ‘drug discoverer’ he has had many patented inventions, due to the “luxury” of having been involved in many successful projects. In Vincenzo Garzya’s view “these projects are aimed at the discovery of novel drugs to treat a range of diseases. Novel drugs are inventions that require patenting in order to allow inventors to capitalise on their inventions. As I was one of the main patent inventors, I hold few patents under my name and they represent a tangible testament of my desire
and attitude towards innovation.”

Vincenzo started his career at GlaxoSmithKline as a bench chemist involved in the design and synthesis of new drugs. Vincenzo says, “as my career progressed, I spent less and less time in the laboratory to move towards a scientific management role working with a team of scientist towards the identification of novel medicines.” Vincenzo won awards for his work, these include; the GlaxoSmithKline award for ‘instrumental contribution to leadership of early phase programme for schizophrenia’, the GlaxosmithKline award for ‘extraordinary team work towards identification of drug candidate for cognitive impairments’ and the GSK Exceptional Science Award for ‘Discovery of a novel chemical series for the treatment of Schizophrenia’.

Vincenzo says that the decision to do an MBA arose because during his scientific career he had had the luxury to be asked to work for many key projects for the firm. In Vincenzo’s view his “ inventions have gone a long way through the drug development process allowing me to achieve certain goals that scientists do not always achieve during their entire career as drug discoverers. All that allowed me to complete the “scientific career lifecycle” pretty quickly and prompted me to move on and explore what was beyond the design and synthesis of new drugs.”

Vincenzo considered London Buinsess School, Cass, Judge in Cambridge, Warwick and a few other. What made him choose Aston Business School? In Vincenzo’s view “the reason why many students decide to study in well-known universities is because these universities give access to prestigious firms. As I was working already for a prestigious firm, I needed to choose a sound university, with solid teaching and well-known professional accreditations (Aston is one of the few business schools holding three accreditations) that could also allow studying flexibility.”

The flexibility of Aston meant that Vincenzo could work and study at the same time; receiving excellent quality of teaching, mentoring and students support. “Although this is hard to believe, many well-known schools do not offer that specific cocktail.”

The highlight of Vincenzo’s MBA year were the corporate finance core modules and marketing modules, “thanks to some outstanding teachers.” For his final project Vincenzo worked on strategic management for GlaxoSmithKline. “In particular the project focused on Option-based Deals, a type of deal that is increasingly growing within the pharmaceutical industry. All that allowed me to build a wealth of knowledge on the Real-Option theory underpinning Option-Based deals. Furthermore it allowed me to access the Business Development side of the firm and its mechanisms driving strategic alliances and best practices.”

Vincenzo chose not to get involved with any internships as his current role at GSK gives him the “luxury to work with many line functions allowing me to understand different parts of the business. This is why I did think that I could skip any university internship offer and concentrate on new activities that could add “diverse” value to my portfolio.”

Vincenzo never left his job at GSK, his MBA was never a stepping stone into a new company. Vincenzo believes that “nowadays there is what I could define as a ‘schizophrenic approach to work’ pushing people to constantly change employer. In my view, many people change employer to seek new opportunities but people also change because they are not happy where they are. GSK’s magnitude has been allowing me to grow while exploring a wide range of opportunities and learn every day about ‘new worlds’.”

Vincenzo is now the ‘Project Manager in Global Project and Portfolio Management’ at GSK; “I work with multidisciplinary teams and look after both the strategic and operational aspects of the drug development projects. In particular, I work on short/long-term planning, strategy, risk management and budget management to deliver quality drug development projects on time and on budget. It is a very exciting role that gives me exposure to all functional areas of the business.”

When asked if the MBA had helped him land this role Vincenzo says he will be able to say in five years time. “The MBA opens your mind and ‘lets you see and percieve’ better: it is up to us to use this open-mindedness to understand what are those jobs that represent the best runway to explore/land on.”

I asked him about the challenges of working in the Pharmaceutical Industry and in Vincenzo's view Pharmaceutical Industry is facing tough times due to highly-paced market conditions. “As a consequence of that, firms need to face the challenge of being more agile and respond to patients' needs rapidly with more and more effective drugs. Innovation plays a key role here and the biggest challenge for firms is ‘how they can enhance innovation and quickly translate those innovations into inventions’. Innovation is the key to access novel drugs that can treat patients effectively.”

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