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Anna Adams is a Project Manager for the Oxford-Janssen Cartography Collaboration and is based in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Here, Anna shares insights from the Cartography Collaboration, emphasising how establishing good governance and fostering relationships can drive successful, innovative partnerships.

Anna Adams alongside a quote "Two such significant organisations working together, using novel techniques to not only advance understanding but to translate this to clinical solutions, makes this a very inspiring place to work."

First, please tell us a little about your career to date

I have recently come into the university from a previous life as a Management Consultant, so I have worked with industry in various guises for many years. Just as consultants often transition to industry and vice-versa, I am also finding that academics move into the pharmaceutical companies they have worked with; and therefore the cultures and personalities do begin to merge within collaborations

The Cartography Collaboration was established in 2021 between Oxford and Janssen (now Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine - J&JIM). The project uses multiomic single cell analysis across multiple immune mediated inflammatory diseases. The aim is to unravel the commonalities and discrete differences within tissues and diseases at a cellular level and therefore inform drug combination approaches, uncover new drug targets and reveal mechanisms of response.

We are seeing an increasing need for project managers to help drive large collaborations – what was your motivation for joining this one?  

I was initially motivated to join this project by the nature of the science, and particularly from a very keen interest in the shared pathways between body and brain in health and disease. The fact that two such significant organisations are working together, using novel techniques to not only advance understanding but to translate this to clinical solutions makes it a very inspiring place to work. I was fortunate to join an existing collaboration, where a huge amount of work had already gone into establishing this very ambitious and wide-reaching programme. Cartography is a true collaboration that involves mixed teams from both organisations who are able to exchange ideas and work very collaboratively side by side  

What will be the benefits of this collaboration?  

Cartography spans multiple disciplines, tissues and diseases. The programme therefore drives countless opportunities to have conversations across traditional working silos both between and within both Oxford and J&JIM. This way of working is accelerating the science as groups learn from each other and benefit from diversity of thinking and exchange of approaches and ideas. 

The collaboration with J&JIM makes cutting-edge science possible; through the clear translational focus, interactions with J&JIM expert scientists and rigorous timelines. Fellows on the programme are exposed to diverse career paths, real-world experience and supportive networks for life. In turn, J&JIM get access to the best people and thinking, state of the art techniques, along with clinical expertise and samples. 

What are your tips for working in collaboration with industry? 

My primary tip would be to put sufficient energy into establishing the ground rules at the beginning of a collaboration. Key university tenets such as the ability to publish academic findings, or to develop student knowledge can be at odds with the intellectual property concerns and fast-paced timelines of industry. These must therefore be transparently aired with sufficient governance in place to protect and accommodate both sides right from the beginning.  

Teams / online meeting capabilities are fantastic and make globe-spanning collaborations painless and efficientHowever, in-person meetings where possible allow for the personal relationships developed at the edges of meetings to produce a step change in the way people work together. 

What is the biggest learning from this experience?  

At the end of the day, it’s only as good as the people on the projectWe have been exceptionally fortunate to have many brilliant, modest and pragmatic individuals making up this behemoth of a collaboration.  It is very exciting to see the amazing results possible from this meeting of minds (although it is sometimes a bit like herding cats to get there).