Dr Joanna Peak


Where did your career start?

After receiving my Biochemistry degree from the University of Cambridge, I moved to The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) to study for a PhD. My doctoral research carried out at the ICR was funded by Cancer Research UK and was in the field of “translational cancer research”. This is the area of research which aims to translate basic scientific discoveries into new cancer drugs suitable for testing in clinical trials. In 2007 I received my PhD and was keen to pursue a career in science but in a role away from the laboratory bench. I took a job at Cancer Research UK’s (CR-UK) headquarters in their Science Communications team.

What made you change career direction?

During my PhD and at CR-UK, I learnt a great deal about the importance of commercialising scientific discoveries and the significance of the patent system, particularly in the biotechnology sector. The role of a patent attorney particularly appealed to me because it seemed like a career that would allow me to remain close to cutting-edge research whilst making use of my communication skills.

Why Boult Wade Tennant?

I was keen to find a firm with an excellent reputation and one which would provide me with the training needed to pass the professional examinations. Boult Wade Tennant is consistently ranked as a top tier firm and has an excellent track record in terms of trainees’ success in examinations. I was also aware that the Biotechnology and Life Sciences Group is world renowned, with an international client list, so I knew the firm would provide me with many opportunities to gain valuable practical experience.

What professional qualifications did you study for?

A few months after starting at Boult Wade Tennant, I completed the Certificate in Intellectual Property Law postgraduate course at Queen Mary University of London. I was awarded the Bill Caro Prize for best overall results in the Certificate examinations. I also studied for the UK and European Qualifying Examinations and am qualified as a Chartered UK Patent Attorney and European Patent Attorney.

What was the best bit of training?

The best part of the training can also be regarded as the worst part of the training! This is because patent attorneys primarily train on the job without a separate period of study for examinations. I thoroughly enjoyed being given the opportunity to work on “real cases”. However, the downside was that it was sometimes difficult fitting in additional study.

During training was there much client contact?

Boult Wade Tennant prides itself on building excellent relationships with its clients, and I have been able to learn about the scientific and commercial interests of many of the Biotechnology clients as a result of my involvement in client meetings and off-site visits.

Was the transition between professions difficult?

For me, the transition between my different roles since leaving university has been relatively smooth as my experience both in the laboratory and as a science writer was relevant to my position at Boult Wade Tennant. As a patent attorney, a strong technical background is extremely important when it comes to clearly understanding our clients’ inventions, and good communication skills are required in order to translate this understanding into effective patent protection. So, my past experience has been extremely valuable in helping me progress in my current career.

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