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Devika Agarwal is a Senior Bioinformatician in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS), working on the Cartography Collaboration. In her story, Devika shares insights from her experience of industry collaboration, including lessons learned about the impact of research, the importance of communication, and the power of team science.

Devika Agarwal alongside a quote "My experience thus far working with industry partners has been very enriching, eye-opening and collaborative. It has been a meeting of minds and exchange of ideas from all the different teams."

Tell us about your collaboration with industry and what motivates you to collaborate 

I have been working as a Senior Bioinformatics Fellow on the Cartography project, working on building a cross-tissue cross-disease atlas for immune modulated diseases as part of the Oxford-Janssen (now J&J Innovative Medicine) collaboration for about two years now. I moved into this role, right after the pandemic, after having previous experience working as a Postdoctoral Researcher with multiple groups and multiple research areas such drug discovery targets for Alzheimer’s across the university.  

My motivations to work with industry right now and specifically for this project were mostly driven by personal loss in my life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many, I have lost family to COVID-19, and suddenly I felt the need to contribute to translational research, but also in a way that was impactful and made a real difference to people’s lives now and could help prevent future pandemics. The Cartography project seemed like the perfect fit for how I wanted to do research and contribute to the field of translational science.

What has this experience been like and what have you learned?  

My experience thus far working with our industry partners has been very enriching, eye-opening, and very collaborative. It has been a meeting of minds and exchange of ideas from all the different teams, not only research groups, but also business partnerships and project management teams from across the university, and our industry partners, to try to work towards a common goal and identify solutions that can be impactful.  

Coming to an industry collaboration from the academic side, some of the eye-opening lessons learnt have included a better understanding and always being able to put your research into perspective regarding the impact a small research finding would have on the bigger pipeline of drug discovery or biomarker discovery for example. Moreover, the importance of communication and the need for doing team science, rather than as an individual, is crucial to achieve real progress in solving some of the problems in healthcare.  

Being part of an industry collaboration has made me realise that such collaborations now and, in the future, will be the driving force by which we can make a real translational impact in society in regard to the prevention, prediction, and treatment of diseases.