Katy Montague | AstraZeneca
Facilitating commercial partnerships within the scientific community
Katy Montague is Academic Alliances Manager at AstraZeneca and took part in Biotechnology YES in 2004 while studying for a PhD in plant biochemistry at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.
Katy works as part of the Scientific Partnering & Alliances team to support AstraZeneca's preclinical and nonclinical collaborations with academic and non-profit organisations worldwide, primarily in the area of oncology.
“YES is a very valuable opportunity - make the most of it! It gives you a few days out to explore another side of science that may be very beneficial to your career.”
Katy’s role at AstraZeneca includes preparing and negotiating various types of collaboration agreements. This requires enterprise skills and knowledge of IP beyond that which are typically developed during an academic career following a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry. Katy credits taking part in YES as putting her on a different trajectory to many science students.
The path to a career in technology
Katy says she went into her PhD unclear about what she wanted to do afterwards but was leaning towards pursuing an academic career path. She credits YES with giving her an interest in the business side of science: “I was inspired by issues around commercialising technology and taking part in YES exposed me to knowledge about business planning and IP that I was able to develop further whilst at John Innes.”
Nurturing this interest ultimately led her into working in technology transfer upon completing her PhD. Katy’s career over the last 15 years has included work within the NHS to help staff develop and commercialise ideas and technologies. Many of these ideas were for innovative medical devices which Katy enjoyed being able to help move forward.
In 2010, Katy moved to the Babraham Institute (a BBSRC-supported institute) to take up a technology transfer role that was more closely linked to her scientific background. Here she helped scientists to bring their ideas to market and helped open up the Institute’s scientific services and facilities for use by companies and entrepreneurs.
Katy moved from the Babraham Institute to her current role at AstraZeneca in 2017 because, up to this point, she had always been working in non-profit and wanted to apply her skills to industry and “experience life from the other side.”
YES helps PhD students to stand
out from the crowd
During YES, Katy was part of a team of five all studying similar areas of plant science and biochemistry at John Innes. The team developed a hypothetical idea to protect old buildings and works of art from destructive bacteria by using a bacteriophage spray.
Katy took the role of the Financial Director within the team, an area she had very limited experience in at that point: “Looking at finances was so far removed from my work as a PhD student. Working with an accounting mentor was very beneficial and they taught me and the team a lot.
Katy and the team also worked with a mentor on Intellectual Property and Katy cites this as a key stepping stone in her career path: “The IP advice was most valuable to me personally and when I applied for my first technology transfer role in the NHS, the experience gained at YES helped me to answer the questions on patents and other IP quickly, and with confidence.
Katy commented on the fact that a lot of people graduating with a PhD are now looking for alternative careers: “Anything you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd can help you to get started in your career. For me, having taken part in YES demonstrated that I had an interest in commercialisation which helped me get onto the first rung of the ladder.”
Katy has since returned to YES as a mentor both to PhD students at the Babraham Institute and also at regional workshops.