Daniel Jones, PhD ’09 : US Head of Neurology and Immunology Medical Affairs at EMD Serono
Daniel Jones, PhD ’09, is a biotechnology professional with eight years of experience working in medical affairs. In his current role as US Head of Neurology and Immunology Medical Affairs at EMD Serono, he leads a small team of medical directors who support the company’s multiple sclerosis portfolio. Dr. Jones completed his PhD in neuroscience at UCSF followed by a brief postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. He resides in the Boston area with his wife and four children.
Tell us about the path to your current role at EMD Serono.
After spending a short time as a postdoc, I knew I was ready for a different kind of intellectual challenge – a challenge that aligned well with my skill set as a strong scientific communicator and strategic thinker. I pursued a number of paths and ended up with two very strong opportunities: Join Goldman Sachs as an investment analyst covering the biopharma sector, or join Lundbeck in a field-based, medical-affairs role where I could better use my extensive background in neuroscience and epilepsy. Because of my passion for neuroscience, and in an effort to remain closer to my passion for science, I accepted the Lundbeck offer. It didn’t take long for me to realize that industry medical affairs was an excellent match for my interests and skill set.
After a couple years at Lundbeck, I felt that the time was right to transition into a more strategic, in-house role that allowed for additional leadership development and cross-functional collaboration to help my career continue growing. Through my UCSF LinkedIn network, I came across a contact at Biogen who was a friend of a former UCSF neuroscience classmate. I asked for an informational interview, and we really hit it off. Within a few months, she hired me as a senior manager on Biogen’s medical director team. About a year later, I was promoted into an associate medical director role, and after another year, I was promoted again to medical director. The opportunities I had at Biogen to learn and grow my career were tremendous.
The next step I decided to seek out in my career development journey was to lead a new product launch, and I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do so as a senior medical director at EMD Serono. I joined the company in early 2018 and have truly enjoyed the launch experience. Late last year, I was promoted to my current role leading the Neurology and Immunology Medical Affairs group in the US. It’s a fun and challenging role in which I’m tasked with leading our medical affairs strategy across the multiple sclerosis therapeutic area. One of the aspects of my position that I really enjoy is the amount of cross-functional collaboration with diverse functions like marketing, research and development, regulatory affairs, and many others.
What was the best career advice you received as a UCSF student?
My mentor at UCSF helped me recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a successful career, whether it’s in academic research or another field entirely.
What’s your advice for UCSF students and postdocs interested in going into the biotech field?
Biotechnology is an incredibly diverse field that covers a huge variety of roles, from medical affairs and clinical development to regulatory, marketing, business development, bench science, and beyond. And within each of those types of roles, there’s a tremendous assortment of backgrounds that people come from.
I suggest taking a hard look at your interests, passions, and skills to help narrow down the roles in which you might be interested. Then you can thoughtfully reach out to selected contacts in your network for informational interviews to learn more about their career paths and day-to-day responsibilities. By taking a systematic approach, you can narrow your focus. Once you’ve identified potential roles that interest you, begin identifying your knowledge gaps, and work to address them by reading books, taking classes, etc. I also suggest continuing to build your network in that field; often, it’s your network that helps get your application past the initial HR screen to a phone call with the hiring manager.
What motivated you to join UCSF Connect?
I was excited to join UCSF Connect because my UCSF network has been incredibly valuable as I’ve navigated my biotech career, and I’m passionate about paying that forward. It’s incredibly rewarding to help bright, motivated scientists land their first medical affairs roles, and I’ve spoken at multiple university events to help educate interested students and postdocs about the transition to industry.
I see on UCSF Connect that you are willing to serve as a mentor. Any tips for UCSF Connect members interested in approaching someone about mentorship?
It’s always helpful to form a connection or find common ground with a prospective mentor. Fortunately, with UCSF Connect, we all have some built-in common ground – we all trained at the same place. Look at a potential mentor’s profile to see if you can uncover other shared experiences or mutual friends – anything to help you build an immediate rapport. It’s also important to frame your request appropriately. Have a clear story about what you’re looking for, why you’re looking for it, and where a potential mentor can fit in. This helps paint a picture of how he or she can provide value.
Within months of launching, UCSF Connect reached more than 2,000 users! UCSF Connect Stories is a way to shine a spotlight on members of the UCSF Connect community and give us a chance to learn about them and their experiences with the platform.
Interview conducted by Sara Ayazi, career counselor and program manager in the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development.