To mark International Women’s Day 2023 we spoke to Victoria Statham, VP Intellectual Property & Legal, about her career and role at Avacta.
Could you tell me a little bit your current role at Avacta?
I support Avacta’s Therapeutics Division looking after the intellectual property and legal matters. As an ex-scientist myself, I may not be on the bench anymore, but I support the people who are by making sure the paperwork is in place for them to do what they need to do as part of my legal role. In my IP role, I get to hear all their great ideas and results, not just about one project, but across the whole Therapeutics Division. And in a combined IP/Legal role, I work with external partners to set up relationships such as collaborations and get to see the data coming through.
When did you first know you wanted to pursue a career in science?
When I was six, my little sister was born with Down syndrome, and as a result, I learned early about chromosomes. My sister is such an inspiration that when I discovered I had a knack for science, it was natural that I would focus in the biotech area. I followed a fairly traditional academic path of a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, followed by a PhD in Genetics, all in the US.
I then veered off the academic track when a friend of mine from grad school lured me away from the bench to try patent law. I scoffed at the idea of sitting at a desk all day, but I said I’d try it for a year before going off to my postdoc – that was 20+ years ago now. Because in the US patent attorneys are also expected to have a law degree, I did that at night for four years, which is how I also ended up working on contracts and not just patents.
What inspires you in the workplace?
The science! Essentially I get to talk about science all day with the amazing people who discover and develop it. I’m happy to come into the office every day, because as informative as meetings can be, just hearing lunchtime gossip about what’s going on in lab can be even more so. I like to say I listen in due to my IP interest, but it’s possible I’m also just nosy. Or planning ahead to that postdoc someday …
What attracted you to the role at Avacta?
The people. After my last company was acquired, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Fiona McLaughlin and Neil Bell by a mutual acquaintance and was inspired by their vision for the future. I wanted to be a part of the team that made that future happen, and I’m glad to be here!