Interview: George Okafo

18 February 2020

We caught up with the new Chair of SCI’s Membership Committee, Dr George Okafo, to find out about his background, and the role and aims of this vital Committee.

Could you tell us a little about your career?
My career in the pharmaceutical industry spans 30 years, where I have held senior director roles in discovery, research and development. These include Chemical Development Group/Project Leader, Global Due Diligence Director, Scinovo Consultancy Director, Emerging Platforms Biology Director, Senior GSK Fellow and Senior Director/Head of In-silico Drug Discovery Unit (DPU).

In October 2019, I left GSK to establish my own pharma consulting company. As Project Leader, I led numerous R&D project from discovery to IND/MAA/NDA regulatory submissions and as DPU Head, I identified, applied and integrated in-silico/AI-driven methodologies to accelerate the discovery of innovative medicines for hard-to-treat diseases.

I have published extensively in numerous biomedical areas (58 scientific papers, four books, two patents, and as an invited speaker at numerous international scientific conferences). I have a BSc (Joint Honours in Chemistry and Biochemistry) and a PhD in Chemical Carcinogenesis, both from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Toronto, Canada.

I have been active in many external organisations including Associate Member of the Royal College of Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, former member of Science and Innovation Advisory Committee for the UK Bio-Industry Association (SIAC, UK BIA),  Active STEM ambassador and Enterprise Advisor.

When did you join SCI, and why?
I joined SCI in 2012 because I wanted to broaden my scientific network, build new contacts and contribute to the advancement of biomedical sciences. Unlike other organisations, SCI was established specifically for the chemical industry and for working scientists.
How have you been involved with SCI’s Interest Groups, and how has this benefited you professionally?
I was a member and then Chair of the Separation Science and Technology Group (SSTG) from 2012 to 2014. As SSTG Chair, I was able to build links and collaborate with other Separation Groups, namely the Chromatographic Society to showcase the latest innovations in separation technologies.
Could you tell readers a bit about what the Membership Committee does?
The Membership Subcommittee’s (MC) remit is to represent SCI members’ needs, aligned with the SCI Board of Trustees and the broader SCI strategy. Briefly, the MC does this by conducting regular surveys to gather information from members to identify how we can enhance the value of becoming and remaining an SCI member. Where necessary (subject to Board of Trustee Agreement), the MC develops any ideas and/or resolves any issues.
As incoming Chair of the Membership Committee, what do you see as the key goal(s) of the group going forward, and what do you hope to achieve?
The key goals of the MC in 2020 are to continue to proactively connect and engage with SCI members, help to attract new members, retain existing members and help to further advance SCI’s position as the organisation that helps its members to grow professionally, build new contacts and learn about new science.
Finally, how can members get involved, and who should join the Membership Committee?
If you are proactive, passionate about SCI and keen to drive change, and want to get involved, please contact the MC directly by emailing, or via your Regional and/or Technical Interest Groups.

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