I have always adored science from a very early age. I was the kid who brought to school a whole collection of bugs with all these labels. I was fascinated by science, nature and animals.
For me, high school was a very exciting time because it was the molecular biology age. All of the sudden, we were able to manipulate DNA. I always had a passionate interest in genetics. I used to have 26 guinea pigs and I bred them all.
In college, I studied more about medical microbiology, genetics and the industrial side of biology.
I went on to get my doctorate in cell cycle genetics. This was a field that was exploding. I was working to understand what controls the cell cycle, and why things can go out of control during cancer.
I moved from cell cycle to vaccine development. I helped develop an award-wining technique called signature-tagged mutagenesis, which was used by many other scientists to study gene function. That got me interested in the vaccine side.
I was one of the founding scientists of a new biotech company called MicroScience. We were trying to develop vaccines against typhoid, meningitis, E. coli and a number of core pathogens.
MicroScience was acquired by Emergent BioSolutions in 2005 and I began working on various projects on the leadership side of the business.
In 2008, we set up a landmark joint venture with Oxford University called the Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium. The aim was to move forward this most promising tuberculosis vaccine. We conducted the first efficacy study of a new TB vaccine in more than 80 years.
Since that point, my entire career has been in vaccines. My chief aim has been to figure out how we can develop new and better vaccines to provide better human health.
As some antibiotics have stopped working so well, diseases such as TB have become resurgent again.
That’s why I came to Aeras. For me, it was unfinished business.
We still have this terrible scourge of a disease. A third of the world’s population is infected with TB. Every year, we have 9 million cases and 2 million deaths. It’s still an enormous problem. We need better drugs and diagnostics. Having spent years committed to find that solution, coming to join Aeras was a way of continuing my commitment to that fight.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Chief operating officer at Aeras, a Rockville, Md., nonprofit biotech organization advancing tuberculosis vaccines.
Career highlights: Vice president of business development, Europe, Emergent Product Development UK; general manager and vice president, Oxford-Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium.
Education: BS, Applied Biology, University of Bath, United Kingdom; PhD, Cell Cycle Genetics, National Institute for Medical Research, London; High Performance Leadership Certificate, Saïd Business School at University of Oxford.
Personal: Lives in Poolesville, Md., with husband Mark and two children, Noah and Ella.