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Formula for Success in Pharma

Industry Veteran Heather Giles Gives Career Insights from World of Drug Discovery and Development to Graduate Students  

Pharmaceutical industry veteran Heather Giles, Ph.D., PhD, FBPharmacolS, recently shared sage advice on careers in the world of drug discovery, development and outcomes to graduate students at UH College of Pharmacy.

Giles is currently Chief Scientific Officer of Houston-based Vapogenix Inc., a clinical stage company developing a new class of non-narcotic analgesics for localized pain, and an adjunct associate professor of pharmacology at UHCOP. A Fellow of the British Pharmacology Society and graduate of the University of London, Giles has more than 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  

"Working in drug discovery and development is an endlessly challenging scientific opportunity, and the variety of opportunities is huge," Giles said. "Science is a core part of not just drug discovery process, but even when the drug goes on the market, if we don't have good science, we don't have good drugs."

gilesGiles said doctoral program students should not be consumed with trying to pursue any specific technique that may be "hot" at any given point. 

"I think the most important thing is that you're learning critical thinking and critical analysis," Giles said. "Adaptability as well as willingness and desire to learn a breadth of scientific knowledge are key to success in this field. Our science changes all the time, but the breadth of what you have to know is so wide."           

As an adjunct faculty member of the college, Giles said UHCOP's research endeavors benefit from the collaborations and connections that many faculty members have established within the pharmaceutical industry as well as fellow member Texas Medical Center institutions.

"Many of the faculty members here actually know what it takes to discover and develop drugs," she said. "The Texas Medical Center is a hotbed of medical research, which has led to lots of spin-off companies being created as Houston grows to become an environment where drug discovery and development is an important part of our economy and infrastructure."  

Pharmaceutical Health Outcomes & Policy doctoral candidate Mark Hatfield said Giles's presentation offered invaluable guidance for graduate students. 

"It is not often that one has the opportunity to visit with and learn from such an accomplished individual in our field," Hatfield said. "She has been at the top of our field for many years, and her insight and optimism spanning all aspects of the process - from discovery to marketing – was truly inspiring. The college has found a terrific mentor for students."