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“The many faces of Lygature” – Interview series, part 3

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The following news stories are dedicated to showcasing the variety of activities our Lygature colleagues are involved in and the value they bring to the projects we provide partnership management services for. They share what excites them the most about working at Lygature, what they find challenging and how they adapted to the new working conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marlinde Smit, Program Manager, working from home
What is the focus of your work within Oncode?

I started last September at Lygature as a Program Manager for Oncode. I am responsible for the Link to the clinic-portfolio, including the Clinical Proof of Concept fund and clinical workshops to strengthen the link between fundamental research and the clinic. Further, I currently give support to our Patient Engagement program and Affordable Healthcare program.

What do you enjoy the most about your work in the organisation?

The teamwork at Oncode and Lygature! Everybody is really driven and enthusiastic and from day one I felt part of both teams. Furthermore, I really like the social and supportive part of my work; the contacts with people with different expertises: the researchers, clinicians, patients, industry and experts in exploratory development and to bring these interesting people together and support them with their goals. I believe in working together, it will really speed up the translation of the results of ground-breaking fundamental research into the clinic, in order to improve the chances of cancer patients.

What is challenging about your work?

It is sometimes a challenge to bring people together from different expertise who all have busy agendas and to keep everybody focused and motivated on the same goal within certain timelines. As a program manager I often have to solve problems, but I actually like some challenges in my work, it will keep you focused, and you learn a lot from it.

How does Oncode bring value to the wider field of medical innovations, in your opinion?

The added value of Oncode is, in my opinion, that we really want to give support in many ways to bring fundamental insights into the clinic faster. We stand for excellent fundamental science, sharing knowledge, collaborations and valorization. For this we have special programs and expert teams to give support where needed to improve medical innovations. This is the reason that makes this work so great: together (as a team) we are making a difference!

What is the nicest compliment you have received while working at Oncode?

Personal compliment - that I’m always cheerful and positive, one of the colleagues is always calling me “een blij ei”. Workwise - that I can motivate people and that I already accomplished a lot in a short period of time.

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your work?

Personally, I moved to my new place during the COVID-19 crisis, so this was kind of challenging since my family and friends are in Groningen and you have to order a lot online. But now everything is done, it is nice to work at home with an amazing view over Utrecht.

Workwise - many Clinical Proof of Concept projects had to stop their lab work and patient inclusion due to the COVID-19 situation, However the review process of the Clinical Proof of Concept fund continues as the monitoring of the projects and other work still remains. We had to re-schedule some of our meetings and we must be more creative by organising digital meetings, to still support our Oncode community. Unfortunately, the Patient Engagement program stands still for the safety of the patients and closing of the labs.

Luckily, we can easily do our work from home by video meetings and phone and Oncode and Lygature are doing a lot to keep us in contact with the team, we have regular digital coffee breaks, a pubquiz or after work drinks. But I do miss the contact and chats in person with my colleagues.

Do you have a tip/good practice for dealing with/adapting to the current situation of working from home?

Try to keep a daily rhythm and take breaks to go for a walk/run outside to get some movement, fresh air and to clear your mind. Keep in touch with your colleagues and do not only talk about work.

Vesna de Jong, Digital Communications Manager, working at her home office
What is the focus of your work within Lygature?

As my job title suggests, I work on digital communications for the various projects within Lygature. This is quite a broad position and it involves anything from sending out newsletters to managing websites for our projects and our company. There are different degrees of involvement for each project, I am quite heavily involved with a few, and have less of a role in others.

What do you enjoy the most about your work in the organisation?

It is difficult to name just one thing. I really enjoy working with my colleagues. They are a versatile bunch of people who are very knowledgeable in many areas. Being the only one in my role, there is definitely a sense of independence, however I still feel I am part of a team and that we are all working together to achieve our goals. I appreciate their honesty and sense of humour as well.

What is challenging about your work?

Every day I work on tasks for five or six different projects and switching between them while remaining focused can sometimes be quite challenging. Sometimes I look back at how many different topics I covered in one day and am amazed that I don’t get more confused. Although it does sometimes take me a few seconds to figure out what topic we are talking about.

How does Lygature bring value to the wider field of medical innovations, in your opinion?

There are many hurdles that need to be overcome between the time you have a great idea and the time you can put innovation in practice, especially in the medical world. Public-private partnerships are a way to make things happen, and at Lygature we are not only experienced in helping different parties start such partnerships, but also in making sure that they can flourish and succeed. 

What is the nicest compliment you have received while working at Lygature?

It’s not really a compliment. At Lygature we have this habit of celebrating each other’s birthdays. For my birthday I received quite a few presents and my colleagues made a donation in my name to the Dutch centre for stem cell donors, Matchis, as well. This really speaks volumes about the people I work with. I also have the honour of being a croquettebuddy, one of only two in the known universe.

How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your work?

We had been following the news about the then epidemic in Asia for quite a few weeks already, when the number of cases in Italy started to rise and the virus quickly found its way to the Netherlands. As for so many of us, the daily reality changed abruptly and we had to find a solution for two full-time jobs and a baby when the nurseries closed. Luckily, my job can easily be done remotely, and I was happy to see how flexible, professional and resourceful our colleagues are.

Do you have a tip/good practice for dealing with/adapting to the current situation of working from home?

I think it really depends on the individual. Everyone is in a unique situation and it is difficult to generalize and give advice. In such an extreme situation, it is best to just focus on getting through to the best of your abilities. To be honest, everyone offering advice on how to improve oneself was really irritating to me. What helped me get through the initial period when the nurseries were closed was, paradoxically, that I had to take care of my daughter every afternoon. Kids are very good at being present in the moment. We would simply go to the playground where I would get to just play with sand and not worry about work, life or the universe.

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