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Sridhar Vasudevan is Associate Professor in Pharmacology and Drug Discovery in the Department of Pharmacology. In his story, Sridhar shares his approach to building partnerships, explains how conferences serve as a fertile ground for initiating collaborations, and why it is so important for the career development of young researchers that they spend time at industry sites.

Sridhar Vasudevan alongside the quote "Collaborations with industry are fantastic for young researchers. I encourage my team to spend time at industry sites. This experience helps them understand the work environment outside academia and build valuable networks."

To start, can you tell us how you approach building these partnerships? 

One of the key strategies I use is open communication. I often engage with people informally, without any specific application in mind. This allows me to share my research, gather diverse feedback, and understand different perspectives. It’s amazing how varied opinions can be, even within the same industry. I talk to different people about the same research topics. Each person offers a unique viewpoint on what is relevant to them, which is incredibly valuable. This broad feedback helps me refine my research and identify potential collaborators. 

Conferences seem to be a significant part of your strategy, when wanting to interact with industry. Can you elaborate on utilising conferences to initiate collaborations? 

Absolutely. Conferences are great. During my presentations, I explicitly express my interest in working with industry partners. This proactive approach often leads to follow-up emails and meetings. Additionally, I engage with industry representatives at conference stalls, exchange contact details and show interest in their work. These interactions have led to many fruitful discussions and potential collaborations. 

What motivates you to engage with industry? 

So, you know clearly being in the therapeutics field, we are working in neuroscience metabolism area, translational research is incredibly important to me. There’s a clear alignment between what I aim to achieve and what industry partners are interested in. While blue-sky research is well supported by research councils, industry collaborations are ideal for projects with practical applications that are sometime considered a bit risky. For example identifying and validating drug targets. This alignment ensures that our goals are mutually beneficial.

Can you share an example of a successful industry collaboration?

Certainly. So I think the one with BMS is really interesting because we've been working with them for two years now and that is something that Business Partnerships Office has helped set up. The collaboration is really interesting because initially it started with a fellowship focused on the potential of certain lipid drugs in modulating brain functions. As new data emerged, we adjusted our research goals, and regular discussions with BMS scientists enriched the project, making it more impactful. This collaboration highlighted how both sides can bring valuable contributions—industry provides excellent tools and a focus on meaningful outcomes, while academia offers innovative ideas and cutting-edge research.

What benefits do these collaborations offer to young researchers in your team?

Collaborations with industry are fantastic for young researchers. I encourage my team to spend time at industry sites. This experience helps them understand the work environment outside academia and build valuable networks. It’s excellent for their career development, providing insights into industry expectations and fostering transferable skills.

Finally, what are your top three tips for working with industry?

First, maintain open and proactive communication. Second, be flexible and willing to fine-tune your research questions based on feedback. Third, don’t try to solve everything - find a focus to start with.