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Marianna Gaça

Senior Engagement Manager, Government Affairs (former Pre-clinical Assessment Manager in R&D)

Tell us about your career path

I recently moved from R&D to Government Affairs in global headquarters, as they were looking for someone who had a strong science background along with good connections in the science world. It’s very exciting that science and innovation are really at the heart of what we do and it’s exciting to be part of the transformation.

How has a STEM degree translated into your role?

I joined in 2004 from academia to develop short-term ‘in vitro’ biological tests to assess the impact of our new products on consumers. To mimic human exposure to different aerosols meant a lot of new science for us, including inventing a special new aerosol chamber and ensuring the lab tests were as accurate and efficient as possible.

Previously, clinical studies had taken up to six months, but with these new tests we could generate and analyse data very quickly, sometimes within 24 hours.

How are you able have an impact?

Developing in vitro tests brought me into the middle of the ‘alternatives to animal testing’ community. I spent a lot of effort explaining how our emerging field of potentially less risky nicotine products needed a non-animal testing paradigm. This led to invitations to give keynote talks at mainstream scientific and specialist toxicology conferences, as well as representing our sector on scientific advisory panels around the world.

How important is it to have a diversified work force?

It is very important. We need to refresh ourselves with new skills and ideologies, and challenge ourselves internally to make sure nothing is overlooked. On a personal note, I have two teenage children, supported by the company’s flexibility – this has allowed me to have a dynamic and interesting career as well as a family

As Global Top Employer earlier this year, BAT received more recognition for employee best practices, scooping the National Undergraduate Employability’s main prize in the category ‘top medium-sized undergraduate scheme’.
Each year, BAT recruit up to 15 undergraduate students for a one-year industrial placement into R&D and Operations, as part of their degree. We seek out the most talented individuals from the UK’s top universities in disciplines such as life sciences, chemistry, materials science, engineering, electronics and product design.

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