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Meet Ana Zivkovic

1.    Tell me in 5 words who is Ana Zivkovic?
Curious- Effective - Forward thinker- Problem Solver- Mother.

2.    What made you join CeMM?
I was deeply in the application process for PhD at University of Chicago in US in 2006, when an invite came for CeMM PhD program. I loved the enthusiasm of the people I meet during an interview, specifically from Giulio and his modern approach towards building the new and remarkable science hub in Vienna, but foremost I immediately adored my future boss Sylvia Knapp and her idea for my PhD thesis. It was an easy decision and by the end of the interview day one, I knew this is where I want to belong for next few years.

3.    What is it about science that interests you the most?
I think that I was around 14 years old when I read Herman Hesse’s ‘Glass Bead Game’ and it was clear to me I want to move into the direction of indulging the human medicine and molecular processes. Since then, I enjoyed each small paragraph of knowledge I read during studying in University that clarified and helped me understand molecular pathways behind the physiological strategies our body takes in response to bacteria, viruses etc. but also itself. Nowadays, I enjoy seeing how remarkable lab discoveries make a huge impact to patient lives and this continues to fascinate me each day. ​​​​​​​

4.    What is the best career advise you ever received, or you can give to the CeMM community?
When I started my PhD I got a great lecture from one of the university professors at AKH – and that one is ''You can achieve a lot of things at the same time, just be persistent and don’t be afraid to search for more''. I thought then it’s easy for men to say this, but understood I may need to work harder. No one has an easy PhD time, we all struggle with ideas and think about future jobs. One needs to work well to get to the comfort zone and then find the strength to go out of it. Every day, it helps me guide my busy working day, eager for knowledge and manage private life.​​​​​​​

5.    Tell us what happened to you after you left CeMM?
After finishing my PhD, I got in touch with a headhunter of Quintiles (nowadays know as IQVIA).  I was really lucky to be assigned to one of the top Pharma companies, Amgen with the CEE Headquarters in Vienna, where I started to learn about CRO (contract research organization) business, that are the companies supporting Pharma branches in organization and execution of clinical trials. I have spent several years understanding how trials are being set up, learned on study feasibility programs, maintained the relationship with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) and huge teams, but also used my scientific approach to ask right questions to understand the clinical protocols on Amgen top pipeline drugs. After that, I gained a chance to switch to a small IQVIA Biotech subsidiary, called Novella Clinical, UK based company. There I lead EU Start up processes with Small Emerging Biopharma’s (SMEs) and was the only employee in my department that was sitting outside UK. I enjoyed occasional traveling to meet the team and enjoyed learning about interesting investigational products from small Biotech companies. From there moved to ICON Clinical research as a Global Study Start up (SSU) Lead and recently Manager, leading a team of 30 people and overseeing the SSU processes in over 15 countries across all continents. I was very proud my team oversaw the Pfizer vaccine protocol trial process and ensured work was done in an exquisite manner. As of September I have decided to take more responsibilities with Senior Global Delivery Manager position at Syneos Health. There I will ensure we support the clients in need and establish new approaches to support demanding need for promptness in the clinical trials so that patients in need get the medicaments as soon as possible. If this sounds interesting to you, use the networking approach and find me on LinkedIn if you need any recommendation how to move forward in your career :)​​​​​​​

6.    What book do you have on your night table at the moment?
I recently received a breathtaking novel called ‘Estoril’ from Tiago Stankovic, which is talking about Portuguese secret police and II Word War. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to read it to the end! ​​​​​​​

7.    What is the last song you heard?
Jan Delay – Oh Jonny – woke me up this morning :)​​​​​​​

8.    Any message you would like to give to the CeMMies or a former colleague?CeMM is an amazing place to be today! Enjoy your time and absorb each second learning and getting the experience. PhD is giving you an amazing opportunity to learn how to lead a project on your own. It may seem it lasts too long– but trust me – whole world is opened and waiting for you. In my opinion, academia and science were too long too far away. Its time to merge these as soon as possible. More we look into the future – there is a huge need to understand academia/industry collaboration. Pandemic showed us how ever important is science in our daily lives. Together with global healthcare community, you will find a chance to fit your skills, interests and knowledge to make this planet technologically more superior than we are. Furthermore, the friendship and support you will find at CeMM will last for life. Use the chance of social events and networking! I came to Vienna 15 years ago with a purpose but  was afraid I will be alone. From the first lunch meeting at old AKH with just few of my colleagues- I found a new family!  Some of these friendships still last... :)

After finishing her Master Thesis in Molecular Biology and Physiology, with a specialization in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in 2005, Ana took the opportunity to work in the Institute for Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering in Belgrade (Serbia) as a Scientific Associate. Shortly after in 2006, she joined CeMM as a PhD student in the laboratory of Sylvia Knapp (former CeMM Principal Investigator and Professor of Infection Biology at the Medical University of Vienna). After finishing the PhD in 2010, Ana started an intensive career working in the clinical trials, which she enjoys with the same level of enthusiasm.