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How a KTP changed my life

27 February 2019

Dr Maria Rubiano-Saavedra has been working on a successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project between Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and market leader GAMA Healthcare.

GAMA Healthcare specialises in developing and manufacturing antimicrobial products. The world leader developed the first universal disinfectant wipe available in the UK under the Clinell brand.

Maria came to Cardiff from Bogota in Colombia six years ago. The success of the project has led to her appointment as Head of Microbiology for the company’s new £2m R&D Centre in Halifax, Yorkshire. Here, Maria talks about her personal and professional journey

“I studied my degree in Industrial Microbiology in Colombia, and completed my PhD thesis at the University of Barcelona under Dr Francisco Lucena at the School of Biology. I also did an internship in America at Riverside California University under Professor Marylyn Yates and finished my PhD with a cum laude.

“I then applied for an interesting project conducted by Professor Jean-Yves Maillard at Cardiff’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It combined my expertise (viruses) with the possibility of working in the UK – one of the most influential nations in terms of scientific research.

Cardiff is a second home

“It’s a small vibrant city, which is constantly developing. The size of the city allows you to combine your personal and professional life. It has a fairy-tale castle; variety of places to eat and drink, different green areas, music and sport events and some of the most beautiful shopping arcades. I have met my partner in life here, become a runner and even like a bit of rugby now!

“It’s been a wonderful six years. Cardiff University is a prestigious institution in a great location with desirable facilities. I have worked with exceptional colleagues, particularly the Microbiology group led by Professor Maillard. The group’s research focuses on the impact of antimicrobial biocides on hospital-acquired infections. The impact of Professor Maillard on my career development has been exceptional.

KTPs are at the heart of innovation

“The KTP Associate role provided the perfect opportunity to combine academic research with industry.Over the last three years, we have done amazing work, bringing recognition from Cardiff University, GAMA Healthcare and Innovate UK – the KTP lead sponsor. The work has been challenging but very satisfying, opening new doors outside academia.

“The KTP has enabled me to work closely with different Gama Healthcare departments, manage relationships with international distributors, develop project management and leadership skills, and improve my scientific knowledge and personal development.

“Above all, it helped me realise the next step in my career would be industry focussed, discovering new solutions that bring real benefits within the healthcare innovation sector.

The importance of collaboration

“Knowledge transfer has been key. GAMA has embedded extra academic expertise, in-house methods and protocols, training of researchers and the acquisition of a functional and extensive database that is applicable for future research.  The ultimate achievement has been two improved formulations for hands and surfaces, which will bring more solutions for the healthcare sector and increase company sales within UK and International markets.

“What I love about GAMA is the people and the shared passion; it is a family of qualified staff with a common objective. Since day one, I felt part of this family.

What Maria did next

“I am moving to the North of England soon to start my new role as Head of Microbiology for GAMA Healthcare.

“This is with mixed feelings. I am so grateful for everything Wales has given me these last six years and for everything the KTP has provided in terms of skills and professional development, opening the next chapter in my career.

Working for GAMA is the perfect next step for me and I cannot wait to be officially part of the team. The new R&D facility is already open and ready to go with exciting projects to work on, and full of brilliant professionals.

I am very positive and looking forward to what the future will bring for me in the next stage up North…”