Sophie

Senior Product Manager

Brian McNamara
Sophie

The Olympian at the sharp end of drug research

Olympic sportswoman Sophie Troiano has found that a career in science has given her just the challenge she needs. The Oxford graduate, 28, joined GSK as a commercial management trainee and was working for them when she was selected for the Team GB Women’s Foil fencing squad for London 2012.

She has now retired from fencing after 14 years of international competition but when it comes to work she is still very much at the sharp end. Currently UK lead for the launch of an important new respiratory drug, her decision to put sport on the back burner while she focuses on building her career is proving to be a winning one.

“I’ve been involved in other launches but with this one I’m leading a cross-functional team of incredibly talented individuals that encompasses experts in everything from health outcomes to medical and commercial. It’s a very challenging project,” says Sophie.

With A and AS-levels in maths, biology, chemistry, history and history of art, as well as an MSc in biochemistry, Troiano rejected the offer of a full-time job at Barclays Wealth after completing an eight-week undergraduate internship at the bank on the grounds that “it was too far away from science”.

Opting instead for a place on GSK’s graduate training scheme, her secondments included a year at the Primary Care Trust in Luton – now the Clinical Commissioning Group – where she worked in the NHS on the development of a range of services for long-term conditions.

While she had little hesitation in choosing the pharma sector over private banking, she is acutely aware of the commercial realities of taking new drugs to market.

“I’m very much a person who wants to be stretched and the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives makes working for GSK that much more rewarding,” she says.

“But while new products are inevitably very exciting, particularly when they bring new science to the clinic, overall financial performance requires longevity as well as launches and it’s important to make sure any new medicine can be sustained over an entire product lifecycle.”

Currently a selector for the country’s under-17 and under-20 fencing squads, Troiano’s love of the sport began at the age of eight when she was introduced to it by her father John, who is still an active veteran fencer.

She fenced competitively from the age of 13 and, in the last two years of her degree, captained the Oxford University team and managed its club.

Breaking into the senior squad while at GSK, she represented Britain at both the European and World Championships before being selected to compete in London 2012.

Another selection came that year when GSK, hired to provide anti-doping science services for the Olympics, chose Troiano as a cover girl for an advertising campaign to announce the appointment.

“My career needs to come first at the moment but by being a selector I’m still playing an active role in a sport that I love,” she says. “You could say I’m keeping my hand in.”

This article first appeared on the Telegraph STEM Awards website.