Interview with CGX's Founder and Managing Director, Dr Lia hunter

January 18, 2022
By Edward Marriott

Lia Hunter is the Founder and Managing Director of CGX training. She has over 25 years’ experience in the Biopharmaceutical/Pharmaceutical and Clinical Trials industry and has held several roles. These have included as a Clinical Research Associate, Clinical Project Manager, Lecturer, Consultant and many more. She has also worked at some of the globe’s preeminent biotech and pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Abbvie and Sanofi-Aventis. That only scratches the surface of her achievements.

Despite an incredibly illustrious career, Lia just like many university graduates and career changers didn’t know about clinical research as a career path when she graduated with a BSc in Chemistry from Essex University in 1990. That’s part of the reason she founded CGX: to train and empower the next generation of clinical trial practitioners (CTPs) and researchers with the knowledge to navigate their careers and work on ground-breaking trials with full confidence and capability.

why did you choose to pursue a career in clinical trials?

I feel like the industry chose me really because it’s something I didn’t set out to do. I stumbled across clinical research by chance, and the moment I stepped into it, it felt like my calling. That’s what I say to a lot of graduates; they come out of school or university, and they don’t know clinical research even exists or how to make entry into it. It’s a very viable career with a healthy starting salary and opportunity for growth.

I started off as a medicinal chemist at a company called Celltech (since re-named Lonza) and then went on to gain a PhD from Queen Mary & Westfield College and eventually I became a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Biotechnology at Cambridge University, where I worked on research into biosensors for 4 years.

When you start out, it can feel daunting asking certain questions — you’re just expected to know it — but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t ask questions. With CGX, I wanted to make a training company where participants can ask about even the smallest detail without judgement and learn from industry experts who can pass down their anecdotal experiences and wisdom.

Why is now a great time to pursue a career in clinical trial AND clinical research?

There are so many exciting reasons. We’ve had one of the worst pandemics since the Spanish Flu and there’s a lot to be done to ensure we don’t experience what we’ve experienced over the last two years ever again. Aside from Covid, there are many diseases and illnesses that get overlooked because they are so rare or deemed non-profitable.

However, some diseases particularly affect certain racial groups, regional populations, or women etc; diseases such as endometriosis, sickle cell and Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome. These need more trial investment to ensure medicines are available for the whole wide world.

The landscape is changing for medicines in terms of how they’re designed and administered, such as personalised medicine, gene therapy and an increased desire to make trials more convenient and patient centred. You don’t just have to come from a natural sciences background either, as more Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being adopted that requires strong computer science knowledge and skills.

There’s never been such a wide range of technologies, therapeutics and advancements and we really need a large, well-trained personnel to get them to the market.

How does CGX help develop the skills of clinical researchers who might have been in their field for a few years?

We’re able to offer courses and training solutions for participants, whatever level they’re at. When we partner with companies, we work with them to identify any training gaps their employees have. This way, we’re able to tailor the course to them so it’s bespoke for their needs. People usually don’t come to us for just a one-off training experience, they return and continue to develop their skills and practice.

We’re also designing advanced courses where participants will be able to come to our facilities and get hands-on experience with mock scenarios as if they were going to an investigator site or office. Most practitioners don’t get the opportunity to practice and plug the holes in their knowledge before their trials start.  A lot of training is on the job, but it’s imperative CTPs get this opportunity if we want clinical trials to be at their most optimal and cost-effective.

What sets CGX apart from other training providers?

From our feedback, we can see people really appreciate how authentic and real our training is. We don’t just show presentation slides, we want our delegates to be doers. We expect them to participate and be fully involved in workshops, work through scenarios and come up with their own solutions and considerations. That practical, hands-on approach is really important for what we do.

What’s a moment in your career you’re most proud of?

There are so many, but I think it would be the day I started my journey as an entrepreneur. By 2015, I had built up such a renowned career, employers just wanted me to stay with them, but I had to take that leap. It was bittersweet, because around that time my father became seriously ill.

I could see how vital quality clinical trials were for us if we’re going to find potentially life-saving medicines and therapeutics; but they also need expert, capable clinical professionals at the helm. This is what inspired me to create CGX and my consultancy organisation Clinnovate. I felt like I could do something life changing, not just for me, but for so many people.

Finally, what advice would you give to yourself?

It’s okay to try different things – you shouldn’t be stuck in something that’s not suited to you and you don’t enjoy. At the start of my career, I thought I’d be in a job that I’d have for the rest of my life. But I realised I could move on, and when you discover all the paths you can take, that’s when you really start to feel empowered.

Lia Hunter and the CGX team are passionate about and committed to training the next generation of clinical trial practitioners. Whether you’re graduating from school or university, you’ve been in the field for years, you’re considering changing careers, or you just want to find out more about clinical trial career pathways, we’re ready to help you on your journey.

Contact us today to find out more about our in-person and online courses, training solutions and consultation services.

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