Women Behind PHOENIX: Alba Córdoba Insensé
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting just a few of the many women behind the scenes at PHOENIX-OITB. This interview series takes a look at their career paths, frustrations and inspiration.
Alba Córdoba Insensé, PhD
Job title: Technology Transfer and Business Development Director – Nanomol Technologies SL
Role in PHOENIX: CMC/ Scale-up and tech transfer of nanovesicle-based demo cases #4 and #5, Quality Management
Tell us a bit about your position and your role in the PHOENIX?
I currently oversee Technology Transfer and Business Development activities at Nanomol Technologies. The company provides tailored nanoformulations and drug delivery systems to pharma, biotech and chemical companies. In addition, we are one of the few cGMP particle analysis laboratories in the world. In PHOENIX, we are providing two demo cases based on our DELOS proprietary nanoparticle technology, and our goal is to achieve a GMP compliant stage. For that, we are setting up a GMP pilot production unit, which will allow us to expand our contract pharmaceutical development services portfolio up to the clinical stage. Besides that, we are also leading the Quality Management work package. My role in PHOENIX is to manage our whole contribution to the project, with several members from R&D, Engineering, Quality Assurance and top management involved, and with a closer follow-up of scale-up, tech transfer and BD activities.
How did you end up where you are? Was it a straight path or did it take you along many curves?
It had some curves, but I enjoyed and learned from them all. I started in an academic R&D environment but focused on tech transfer projects with pharmaceutical companies. Then I moved to a start-up developing medtech biomaterials, where I could further develop technical and entrepreneurial skills, and earned my PhD and a postgraduate degree in Technology Transfer and Innovation Management. That made me realise that it was this part of the game, the business orientation, which I enjoyed the most. Then, a big curve in my career was becoming a mother: it took some time to find a good equilibrium between family and work. Six years ago, I started working at Nanomol Technologies, first as Project Manager and later as Tech Transfer & BD Director. Now we are facing exciting times ahead scaling up the company.
What is the best part of your job?
I am lucky to be involved in several areas of the company. Working at a growing company is never boring: I am learning every day. I really enjoy working as a cohesive team, and I am grateful to be working with so many talented and qualified colleagues. My position combines both scientific and business mindsets, and it is very satisfying to realize that most strategic milestones that we put on paper a couple of years ago are being effectively accomplished as a team. On the sales side, successfully closing a deal for a pharmaceutical nanoformulation development project after a negotiation phase is one of the more exciting and rewarding moments.
Who are your role models?
My role models are close. I chose to become a Chemical Engineer because of my father. He really loved his profession and taught me how to enjoy the beauty in science. He and my family always encouraged me to follow a scientific path.
I had a brilliant mentor, Prof. Nora Ventosa, who offered me my first position in R&D, besides great advice to pursue higher goals since my early career. I learned from her the tenacity and the goal-oriented working. Our careers met again when I started working at Nanomol Tech, since she co-founded the company. Besides, she also takes part in PHOENIX as PI of the CSIC Barcelona Team, so I am very happy to collaborate with her and her team in the project.
Is your field welcoming to women?
The pharmaceutical field is very welcoming to women in all stages, also in leadership positions. However, in the engineering side of my work, dealing with design, set-up and troubleshooting of high-pressure equipment, I often find myself being the only woman in the room. When I was younger, this could sometimes be intimidating, making me feel like I needed to prove why I was there. In the past I also had some misunderstandings in my role when leading international projects, because of being a young woman, but I managed to solve them quickly and reinforce my position. These experiences faded away as I gained more confidence. Thus, I don’t believe that sexism has affected my overall trajectory, but it has put some small hurdles in the way.
Do you have tips for dealing with sexism in the workplace?
Have a clear gender equality policy and procedures in place to communicate and solve sexism issues.
What advice can you give to young women contemplating a career in your field?
Be confident, let the people hear what you have to say, and go rock it!