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Meet the ValiRx team: Zai Ahmad

3 Apr 2023


As our preclinical project manager, Zai Ahmad is spearheading the set-up of the new laboratories for ValiRx subsidiary Inaphaea and using her wealth of scientific knowledge and experience to lead the development of scientific projects and experiments.

In the latest instalment of our ‘meet the team’ series, we speak to Zai about her career background, her interest in drug development, and why she enjoys being part of the ValiRx team.

What does your role at ValiRx involve?

I work alongside ValiRx’s CEO, Suzy, and CSO, Cathy, to evaluate potential new projects coming into the company, in addition to organising in-house experiments and providing scientific input wherever necessary.

A key aspect of my role is leading the development of CLX001 (Cytolytix) - a peptide created by King’s College London for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer. This peptide has the potential for expansion into ovarian cancer and other solid tumour cancers and is a key project for us at ValiRx.

In addition, I am utilising previous experience gained working in labs and at other organisations to lead the set-up of the new lab for ValiRx subsidiary Inaphaea, including establishing the lab protocols and standard operating procedures to ensure reliability and consistency of the results produced.

Could you describe your career background and experience?

I joined the ValiRx team at the end of last year from Oxford Biomedica, where I was principal scientist and PRD team lead. Before this, I worked at Covance, AstraZeneca, The Institute of Cancer Research, the University of Leeds, the University of Oxford, and John Radcliff Hospital, Oxford, covering a range of areas from neuroscience to oncology and drug development.

In terms of my academic background, I have a Master of Philosophy degree in Neuroscience from the University of Leeds and have written several peer-reviewed manuscripts focused on neuroscience and oncology.

Where does your interest in drug development stem from?

My very first job after leaving school involved looking at brain isografts - a role that helped me to define the direction I wanted to take my career in and determine the areas where I wished to develop my education.

I always knew I wanted to work in a biology-focused area. Initially, I worked in neuroscience, looking at synaptic junctions associated with memory and neurotransmitter release in the hippocampus, as well as pathways associated with Parkinson’s Disease and cardiovascular regulation. I later moved into oncology as I wanted to have more of a direct impact on patient survival.

This decision led to me becoming part of a drug development group for the Institute of Cancer Research. Here, we were developing novel compounds to target a specific pathway and taking them through to clinical trials.

As a lot of research from academic labs gets published and is not then taken any further, the idea of taking research from academic labs, developing it into therapies, and ultimately having it benefit the lives of individuals is a huge motivator for me in the work I do.

What do you most enjoy about working at ValiRx?

As ValiRx is a smaller, close-knit company focused on innovation, I truly feel like my voice is always heard and my opinions are valued by my colleagues, and that I have more of an opportunity to create a larger impact. It also provides a very dynamic and fast-paced working environment, with diverse areas I can be involved in and grow my knowledge from.

Being part of the ValiRx team is enabling me to pursue my passion for oncology and drug development, whilst also providing me with the opportunity to utilise my skillsets on the operational side, in setting up the lab and determining which of the latest technologies we should invest in.

I am excited by ValiRx’s future prospects, and the impact the company’s work could have on people’s lives.

Click here to learn more about ValiRx’s board of directors and management team.

Zai Ahmad