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IMED Early Phase Drug Discovery Graduate Programme

Locations: Cambridge, UK; Boston, US; or Gothenburg, Sweden
Salary: Competitive


Applications for the UK, US and Sweden have now closed but will be re-opening later this year.

About IMED

For IMED, collaboration is a way of life. We are committed to developing great science in our own labs, and combining this with the very best external science.

Each year we invest in excess of $1bn on discovering and developing the next generation of life changing medicines, from initial target selection through to the end of Phase two trials, and we're focused on driving the scientific advances in small molecules, RNA and other emerging technologies and drug discovery platforms to push the boundaries of medical science.



Programme details

About the programme

The AstraZeneca graduate programme in Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) is designed for those with a passion for science, and a desire to make a genuine difference to the lives of patients today and in the future. During the course of the programme, you will have the opportunity to make a real contribution to our projects and could find yourself involved in scientific breakthroughs that will help deliver the next generation of life saving medicines.

Our graduates undertake a two year programme where they will complete three different eight month placements across IMED with a focus on breadth of experience. We have placements available at our three strategic sites in the US (Waltham, Massachusetts), Sweden (Gothenburg) and the UK (Cambridge).

With a placement in the IMED Biotech Unit, you'll help translate the scientific advances we're making into the next generation of life-saving medicines. These are real projects with real responsibility. You could even be involved in our next scientific breakthrough.

What you can expect

We're looking for talented science graduates from a broad range of science disciplines with a bachelors or masters degree, who have graduated in 2016, or are due to graduate in 2017. We are particularly looking for those individuals who have a passion for science and really want to make a difference to patients worldwide by helping us to push the boundaries of science and develop the next generation of medicines that will revolutionise healthcare around the world.  

  • This is a two year programme and includes three distinct rotations through different areas of Innovative Medicines and Early Development, providing a broad exposure to multiple areas of basic and applied scientific research.
  • You'll be encouraged to make a real contribution to our projects from day one. So you'll find yourself involved in the design and development of new products leading to the next generation of life-saving medicines, right from the start of your career.
  • Graduates are enrolled in our Global Graduate Development Programme where we focus on the softer skills that are required to make the successful transition into industry. You will complete three modules where you will travel to one of our Global R&D sites to complete the programme and build your knowledge of the exciting science and facilities that are located on each of our R&D sites. Graduates are also aligned to a mentor who is a senior leader in the organisation and will support you for the duration of the programme.
  • You can also expect a competitive salary and benefits.
  • We offer all graduates a generous relocation support if required including Swedish language lessons if you are moving to Sweden.

What does the programme involve?

The IMED Early Discovery Science Graduate Programme will give you broad experience of the drug discovery process by immersing you in real science, giving you responsibility on real projects from the outset and providing ongoing mentoring. The programme includes three rotations, which you can choose from an extensive range of placements, allowing you to tailor your development to your particular passion. We'll also help you to develop soft skills to ease your transition into industry.

Wherever you're based, you'll be working with colleagues who are true experts, as well as with academic institutions and like-minded scientific companies. All in all, the programme provides a springboard to great things, within or outside AstraZeneca. 

Essential requirements

What we're looking for:

  • Science graduates with a minimum of a 2:1 or local equivalent Bachelor's degree or Masters gained in 2016 or 2017
  • Bright, motivated and highly driven individuals with a real passion for drug development 
  • Innovative thinkers with enthusiasm and energy to match their scientific expertise
  • Ability to work as part of a collaborative team that focuses unequivocally on patient needs
  • Strong critical thinking, stakeholder management, planning, organisational and time management skills

Now is a great time to be a scientist in AstraZeneca. Working across a range of therapy areas our IMED teams are focussed on translating the really cool science that is happening in our labs into the next generation of medicines that patients need.

To make this happen we need great people who share our passion for science and who have the drive and determination to meet the unmet needs of patients around the world.

Therefore our graduates have a range of opportunities to meet with scientists and at every level of our organisation are actively encouraged to go out and speak to our leaders and scientists to obtain more information of the great science that we do.

Mene Pangalos EVP, IMED Biotech Unit

Joining us is as easy as...

You will first of all need to complete an online application form that can be accessed through the links above. It is important that you take your time to complete your application in full as we place a lot of importance on all areas of the application form.
Please apply into one region only.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an assessment centre at one of our core R&D Sites.
Successful candidates will then be offered a place on our 2017 programme that is due to commence in September 2017.

Meet our people

Meet Larissa

Meet Larissa

My name is Larissa and I am currently on my second placement in the Innovative Medicines and Early Development Graduate Programme. I read Biochemistry at the University of Warwick and also did a one year placement at AstraZeneca during my degree.

I heard about the graduate programme as a sandwich student and felt it suited me better than a PhD as I was uncertain of the specific area to choose. The scheme boasts three placements in different areas and an exciting development programme which involves travel to three different sites across the world. Together, I felt these would increase my lab experience as well as giving me the personal development and softer skills I needed to be a well-rounded and employable individual.

The placements have allowed me to experience diverse ways and areas of working. My first placement was in High Throughput Screening, the very start of drug discovery. It involved working with large amounts of automation to provide high quality data for projects that are trying to find an initial compound they could start work on for their drug target. In contrast, my second placement has been in Drug Safety and Metabolism which can cover any area of the drug discovery timeline. This has involved bespoke experiments to increase understanding about a routine safety assay and comparing it to newer, more complex technologies.

During my time as a graduate I have been able to be a part of talks and discussions with leading scientists from both within AZ and externally, building my knowledge of the drug discovery world as a whole. I also manage a journal club which meets twice a month and allows grads/students to present journals they're interested in or critically discuss papers to help us be great scientists. The journal club is part of AZInspire, a network for young people in the company. AZInspire runs social events, symposiums and 'lunch and learns' which offer a deeper insight into the company and helps generate a collaborative environment for the young people. One of the best parts of the scheme is the assigned senior mentor, which I have found extremely useful for initially helping me to settle and continue to navigate a large company.

I know my mentor will continue to be key in helping me to explore my next steps beyond the scheme. The development scheme has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and am excited to continue to work on science that will help change patients lives.

Meet Maria

Meet Maria

My name is Maria and I am currently doing my second placement in the Innovative Medicines and Early Development Graduate Programme. I studied Chemistry at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece where I also started my MSc in Organic Chemistry. I completed my Master Thesis in AstraZeneca in Sweden during which time I found out about the Graduate Program.

I originally wanted to (and still want to do) a PhD, but this program was the perfect opportunity for me to find the scientific area I would like to do it in and also get some industry experience. In the program, i would be able to try three new areas and see other parts of drug development, meet great scientists and people, share ideas and knowledge and also further develop as a scientist.

Since I did my master thesis in Organic Synthesis I decided to try Analytical Chemistry for my first rotation. It was still chemistry but a different perspective from my lab background. That gave me the opportunity to try what I have learned in theory and understand in depth procedures and techniques that I was using during my thesis, among many other new things. The project I was working on opened the doors for an accessible analytical procedure that allowed the analysis of molecules that were challenging with the conventionally-used techniques.

For my second rotation I decided to get out of my comfort zone and explore biology (!). I am currently in the Nucleotide Bioanalysis group in Drug Safety and Metabolism where we are working with innovative RNA technologies. It is not easy to start from the very beginning to understand something so different from what you have learned so far. But it is also exciting to find out that nothing is impossible and that you can still incorporate your previous knowledge (even chemistry). Everyone was very eager to teach me and although I was a bit scared when I started I am really glad I made this choice and challenged my skills.

The Graduate Program met all of my expectations so far and even exceeded them. I have had the chance to understand and challenge myself but also get a better view of what I would like to do in the future. I have met great people, friends and mentors that contributed in my way of perception, that helped me boost the confidence in myself and also my collaboration and organization skills among others. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given so far and am looking forward to the experiences that are about to come.

Meet Maya

Meet Maya

My name is Maya and I am currently on my second placement in the Innovative Medicines and Early Development Graduate Programme. I studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge where I completed my undergraduate studies and my master’s degree specialising in Chemistry. I then carried out further research in Organic Chemistry at the University of Cambridge for a year before hearing about the Graduate Programme at AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca invests hugely in the younger generation of scientists, which is what attracted me to their programme. Graduates are given the opportunity to delve into three different areas of drug discovery and development in the form of three 8-month placements. After finishing a Medicinal Chemistry project at university, I was interested in learning about the biological side of drug discovery, so my first placement at AstraZeneca was in Drug Safety and Metabolism. This involved designing, validating and optimising biological assays to assess the potential for adverse drug interactions in the body. This proved to be a steep learning curve for me, and I was very grateful for all the support I received from my project supervisor.

I am currently halfway into my second placement in Oncology Chemistry where I am developing my skills in drug design and synthesis. I work closely with my supervisor and colleagues in the lab on an oncology project, but I am also encouraged to think independently and continue to build on my chemistry knowledge. This placement also ties in nicely with my first placement, as the chemical compounds I synthesise in the lab are sent off to be tested for biological activity and safety. The results from these experiments then guide further drug design. Whatever we do, the emphasis is always on patients’ health and safety.

As well as learning new practical skills through the Graduate Programme, I have also had the opportunity to attend Development Modules offered at different AstraZeneca sites around the world, the highlight of which has been getting to meet my colleagues from Sweden and the US.

I have now completed my first year of the Graduate Programme and have had an incredibly enjoyable time here. The atmosphere at AstraZeneca is just fantastic, and I certainly look forward to  working on more drug projects in the coming year.

Meet Matthew

Meet Matthew

My name is Matthew and I am about to start my final rotation in the Innovative Medicines and Early Development Graduate Program at the Gothenburg facility. I studied Behavioral Neuroscience at Guelph University, and Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Manchester. The development of 3D cell culture methods is exciting for me and something I plan to continue pursuing.

The IMED graduate program seemed like an attractive way to gain some industrial experience, learn about the drug discovery process, network with professionals, and develop as a scientist. I am about to start my third rotation and I have already learned so much more than I anticipated. With my first rotation being in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics I quickly gained an appreciation for the challenges associated with the creation of small molecules and the need for advanced in vitro testing. With my second rotation being in translational science there has been more emphasis on the optimization of complex humanized 3D cell culture. So far this has challenged and enabled me to use my education to make decisions on important aspects of the culturing system. Although I have not chosen which department I will do my third rotation in I am excited to continue this learning process.

As someone who was not sure what I wanted to do after my Masters, this program has given me a chance to get advice from leading professionals and help me make some tough decisions. I’ve come to really enjoy this type of research environment and I am now interested in an industrial PhD. 

Meet My

Meet My

My name is My, I am from Stockholm, Sweden and I am currently on my second rotation of the AstraZeneca IMED Graduate Programme. I have a Master of Science in Engineering; Biotechnology from Lund University and started at AstraZeneca Gothenburg in September 2015.

The graduate programme is a great opportunity to learn a broad set of research skills and methods, and to catch up with the most recent research within the field. The programme has given me a unique understanding of industrial pharmaceutical research at a very advanced scientific level. My first placement was within the Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity department, where I explored the effect of compounds on primary cells, with the purpose to increase our understanding of the biology behind the disease phenotype and deliver high quality data to a project. My current placement is within Discovery Sciences, where I am developing a model for disease using human stem cells in a 3D setting.

I have so far learned multiple advanced techniques such as flow cytometry, stem and primary cell cultivation, qPCR and confocal microscopy. I have also had the chance to meet brilliant scientists in all stages of their career, allowing me to build a strong social network. The graduate programme along with the personal development module has truly helped me understand what my strengths are, allowed me  to grow as a scientist and prepared me well for future challenges. 

Frequently asked questions

About the programme

About the programme

How will the programme work?

You would join AZ on a two year fixed term contact and will complete three placements of eight months each across different parts of Innovative Medicines and Early Development. We want to focus on ensuring that you obtain breadth of experience at this stage and will provide as much exposure to as many different parts of Innovative Medicines and Early Development as possible.

Placements cover all the different areas of Innovative Medicines and Early Development and if you are a Chemist for example you might find that you have one placement in Global DMPK, followed by Medicinal Chemistry and Computational Chemistry.

There are many different placements available so our graduates follow many different pathways. Our Bio scientists for example might find themselves in placements in Translational Science, Personalized Healthcare and Biomarkers and Drug Safety and Metabolism or Bioscience.

Will I have a choice of where my placement would be?

You would have regular discussions with your mentor, line managers and programme managers in order to establish your development needs and aspirations. All graduates on the programme are encouraged to reach out to potential placement line managers to discuss the placement and the science conducted within it.

All graduates then submit their preferences in terms of where they would like to be based and this is taken into account when we allocate individuals to placements. We do not plan all 3 placements in advance as we feel it is important to allow our graduates to find out more about our business and their interests and development needs before deciding where they would like to be placed.

Graduates on the programme have the opportunity to express preferences of where they would like to be placed on their first rotation prior to joining us.  All of our graduates have been happy with their placements and the options open to them as we have a wide range of placements available so we really do have something for everyone what ever your scientific interests.

What kind of work will I be doing?

All of our graduates are fully immersed within our teams in the organisation and take on real roles and responsibilities from day one. Our graduates in Innovative Medicines and Early Development are working on a wide range of scientific advances in drug discovery from initial target selection through to the end of Phase 2 trials so whatever your passion and interest there will be an opportunity to work on important areas of drug discovery.

You never know - you could be working on the next scientific breakthrough.Some of the areas that our graduates are currently working in include: Translational Science, Personalised Health Care and Biomarkers, Computational Chemistry, Drug Safety & Metabolism, Global DMPK, Structure and Biophysics and Early Clinical Development across the range of our therapy areas.

Some of our graduates have even had the opportuity to get involved in a scientific publication or presenting their work to a scientific conference, although this is not guaranteed as part of the programme.

How will my performance be managed?

Performance management is a continuous process at AstraZeneca. You should expect to have regular performance discussions with your placement manager and mentor. Your placement manager is also the person who would conduct your end of placement review which will determine what your end of year bonus will look like. You will receive a differentiated bonus according to how you perform.  

You may also be allocated a supervisor who will work with you and the line manager to ensure that you get all the support you need to suceed.

What opportunities will I have to present my work?

All of our graduates are required to produce a poster at the end of each placement which is then presented at a site based poster session. This provides our graduates with a great opportunity to present their work and talk about the science that they have been working on.

This is also a great opportunity for all graduates to find out more about the science conducted on each of the placements on the programme. Some of our graduates have also been selected to present their posters at our Internal Science Symposiums at our sites in other countries.

Will I obtain a permanent role at the end of the programme?

We are not able to guarantee you a permanent role at AstraZeneca at the end of the programme. You would have the opportunity to apply for a role in AstraZeneca at the end of the programme and a number of our graduates have been successful in obtaining a position with us.

Other graduates have moved onto an AZ Sponsored/Industrial PhD and will continue to work with us as they complete their research.  Other graduates move on to PhD programmes independent of AZ or employment in other organisations.

Whatever the outcome at the end of the programme for you we are confident that you will benefit significantly from the skills and experience that you would obtain from the completion of the IMED Graduate Programme. All of our graduates have said that they have benefited enormously from their time on our graduate programme which has served as the springboard to their next career step whether this be a PhD or employment.

Will I have an opportunity to work overseas as part of the programme?

We do offer some overseas placements as part of the programme but this is not guaranteed.

Opportunities for development

Opportunities for development

What are the opportunities for development?

You will be encouraged to grow and develop throughout the 2 year programme. A number of development interventions will be put into place including drug discovery and development training as well as other relevant technical and specific placement training.

All graduates will also be enrolled into our global graduate development programme to supplement the on placement skills and experience.

What does the graduate development programme cover and how will it work?

We are working with an external partner to deliver our graduate development programme who specialises in graduate development. The development programme will focus on 3 core areas of being successful, being a great scientist and planning for the future.

Our graduates travel as a Global Cohort to each of our core R&D Sites to complete one of the modules so you will have the opportunity to travel to the UK, US and Sweden as part of the programme. We always take the opportunity to spend the whole week together to learn more about the particular site.

The development programme also provides an opportunity for our graduates to meet their global peers and to understand more about our business. Our graduates feel that the development programme really helps them to develop the softer skills that they need to succeed.

What else will be involved in the programme?

The development programme is very interactive and we use professional actors to help you to develop the communication skills and confidence that you need to succeed in AstraZeneca. The graduates also have the opportunity to work as teams on real business related projects and tasks.

We also encourage the graduates to make video diaries and complete a learning journal so that they can keep an accurate record on their development on the programme. The modules are also supplemented with pre and post workshop interventions including the use of a range of online tools and technologies.

All graduates on the programme will also form global learning network groups to support each other through the programme. Your line managers and mentors will also be trained to ensure that you gain the most benefit from this opportunity.

What other opportunities are there for development on the programme?

Graduates on the programme are encouraged to seek our opportunities to enrich their own personal development. Some of our Graduates attended the GAP Summit at Cambridge University earlier this year. Others have had the opportunity to meet Nobel Prize winners and to attend internal symposiums and confereneces.

A number of of graduates have been shortlisted to present their work at the IMED Science Symposiums at another R&D Site.

The roles within the programme

The roles within the programme

What does the programme manager do?

The programme manager is the person is responsible for the delivery of the graduate programme for Innovative Medicines and Early Development. The programme manager manages the attraction, recruitment and onboarding of all graduates on the programme working in conjunction with regional programme team members and the Early Talent Coordinator.

The programme manager also works with all graduates to establish placement preferences and to ensure that we have the appropriate number and range of placements, mentors and line managers to deliver the programme.

The programme manager also works with our training company to design and deliver the Global Graduate Development programme.

What is the role of the mentor?

The mentor is a leader within the organisation who will support you for the duration of the programme by offering career guidance, advice and support. The mentor is also there to challenge your thinking and to provide a different perspective to that of the placement and programme manager.

Our current graduates really value this different perspective and having this 1:1 support for the duration of the programme.

Who will be my line manger?

You will have 3 different line managers during the course of the programme as you will have a different line manager for each of your placements. Your line manager may also involve a lab supervisor. Your line manager will work with you to identify your objectives for your placement and will also ensure that you have the relevant training and resources to be able to make a valuable contribution to our projects whilst you are working with them.

Your line manager will conduct your end of placement review ensuring that you will have an opportunity to summarise what you have achieved on your placement.

About our selection process

About our selection process

How many positions are you recruiting?

Globally we are looking to recruit approximately 20 new graduates in 2017.

What countries are you recruiting in?

We will have IMED graduates based in our Strategic R&D Sites in Gothenberg in Sweden, Waltham, Massachusetts in the US and Cambridge in the UK.

What will the selection process look like?

We have developed a robust selection process that will enable us to ensure that we select the best candidates to join our programme. This will consist of a number of different types of exercises and interviews that will test your technical knowledge and interpersonal skills.

You will be provided with detailed information on how you can prepare for one of our selection events at one of our sites should you be shortlisted. Our assessment centres are very much a two way process and this is our opportunity to find out about your suitability for a place on our programme but it is also your opportunity to find out whether the programme is right for you.

Previous candidates have commented on how useful they have found our assessment centres to be in providing an insight into drug discovery even if they have been unsuccessful at obtaining a place on the programme.

Can I apply for a position in more than one county?

As the selection process is managed by a Global Team who manage all of our recruitment globally you do not need to do this. We request that you apply into one region only and state a willingness to work in the other regions as part of your application process.

When can I expect to hear whether my application has been successful?

We aim to contact all candidates within 4-6 weeks from the closing date to confirm whether you have been shortlisted to progress within our process. Please bear in mind that our advert will be open for a number of months and you will not hear anything from us with regards to the progress of your application during this time.

Will I be provided with feedback if my application has been unsuccessful?

Due to the volume of applications that we receive we regret that we are unable to provide feedback to these candidates who have not been shortlisted at our application stage. However all candidates who are progressed to interview will be provided with feedback if their application has been unsuccessful.

What if I cannot make the selection dates that you have indicated?

As we hold global events at a number of our key R&D sites we will be unable to offer an alternative date for candidates who cannot make the assessment dates. We therefore, include details of our assessment centre dates on our advertisements so candidates are clear about this when they submit their applications.

What is the salary and benefits package?

We offer a very competitive salary and benefits package including an annual performance bonus, flexible benefits and private healthcare.

Will I be provided with relocation support?

All graduates who join the programme are provided with relocation assistance if required which includes a graduate 'golden hello' which is a lump sum payment to help with the costs of setting up home in a new area as well as support with removal expenses and temporary accommodation if required.

Overseas graduates who are relocating to Sweden are also provided with language lessons and a settling in support where we will provide assistance with the establishment of national insurance numbers and bank accounts. All graduates who are moving into a new country will also be provided with relocation support from an external vendor to help you to find a place to stay.

I do not have any lab work experience – will that be a problem?

Whilst any work experience is very valuable for candidates this is not essential. Our programme is very much part of our longer term strategy so we look for candidates who have a real passion for science and who want to make a difference to the lives of patients and candidates should not be discouraged from applying if they feel they have the right skills and qualities to succeed on our programme.

What disciplines do you recruit?

We recruit a broad range of science disciplines on the programme ranging from chemical and biological sciences to specialist disciplines such as translational science, pharmacology and drug discovery. If you have graduated in 2016 or are due to graduate in 2017 and have a strong science background then you are eligible to join our programme.

Do you only accept candidates with a master’s degree?

No we accept masters and bachelor graduates onto the programme and have a combination of both at any one time.

Do you only hire local candidates in each country?

No we are happy for candidates who reside within one country to submit an application to another should they wish to experience a different country/culture as part of the programme. In fact we have a number of examples where we have recruited UK graduates into the US and Sweden as they have had a preference to work in another country as part of the programme.

Candidates do need to be eligible to apply for the country in which they wish to work though.

Explore our other graduates/masters programmes

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