Welcome back to Aoife Regan, the programme office head

12 Dec 2018

So Aoife – how was your mat leave?

Very different with the second to the first. It is so much harder juggling a baby and a toddler, but lovely to be able to spend time concentrating on family.

And coming back – what’s changed?

Well firstly, we have a few new faces in the team.

Fiona Chennels has joined us as Operations and Delivery lead, coming from her previous role as Head of Data Management in the UK for Roche Pharmaceutical. Siru Virtanen has joined us from within Cancer Research UK, having worked in discovery research funding teams and in developing our cancers of unmet need work; she’s now the powerhouse behind the EC Trial Finder. We also have a new Combinations Alliance Assistant Ana, who has a background in psychology and is studying towards a master’s in public health. It’s great to come back to so many talented individuals who are bringing a wealth of experience into the team. And it’s the first time in a long time that we have been at full strength, so I am excited to see just what we are now capable of.

The Paediatric Network, which was in its infancy when I left, seems to be really progressing well which is fantastic news.

I also hear we have a few new ECMC leads. I haven’t met any of them yet but should do soon.

Cancer Research UK has a new Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell – she has only officially started recently, and I am really looking forward to seeing what impact new leadership will have across the charity. We presented the EC Trial Finder to her in November as a nice introduction to the network.

And finally, the team seem to have turned into runners in my absence. Five of them have signed up for the CRUK 10K in January, and they often disappear off for lunch time runs. This was a development I didn’t see coming.

So, what is taking up your time at the minute?

Ilaria has done such a fantastic job acting as my maternity cover and the team is in a great place so I am in the fortunate position of being able to think more about the future for the network. Experimental medicine has changed immensely in the last 10 years and will continue to change. For the network to thrive, we must ensure that it is positioned to deliver the research of the future, such as complex trials and advanced therapies.

We also need to address some of the fundamental stumbling blocks that make it difficult for the network to be truly collaborative. For example, we have expected locations to compete against each other for funding one day, and then collaborate the next.

I will say more about the topics we are considering in future newsletters, hopefully to open more of a conversation about what the network could and should be in the future.

What is keeping you awake?

Well apart from a teething baby, the potential impact of Brexit looms large. The uncertainty is a challenge that we will all be dealing with. We are working closely with colleagues in the Cancer Research UK policy team to identify areas where we might need to provide greater clarity or more support. Once the Brexit terms are clear we will be in touch with guidance for the network. In the meantime, if there are any areas you are struggling with, please let us know and we will do our best to help.

Just before I go, I wanted to say a big thank you to Ilaria for leading the team so fantastically well in my absence. Doing a maternity cover is never an easy task, but she was really thrown in at the deep end when days after I left one of her senior managers resigned. She has dealt with all the challenges that come with the role and has maintained team morale and productivity. I am so pleased to be able to retain her in the team.