Marina Virgili about Barcelona and Groningen

Posted on 1 May 2024

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Marina Virgili, a dynamic and accomplished professional with a fascinating history in the pharmaceutical industry. Originally from the beautiful city of Barcelona, Marina shared insights into her background, career, and the unique experiences she has encountered along the way.

Marina was born and raised in Barcelona at a time when international education was not as common in Spain as it is today. Currently, she splits her time between Barcelona and Groningen. She is delighted by the opportunity to enjoy such an international experience and live abroad!

A proud mother of two (a girl and a boy), Marina’s interests extend beyond her professional life, as she finds happiness in the beauty of nature, enjoying activities like hiking, skiing, and mushroom foraging, but also urban activities like spending time with friends and family and going to the cinema, theater, and concerts. One movie that she and her family hold dear is “The Big Lebowski”; where Jeff Bridges plays the Dude. Marina watches this movie with her whole family every year, and she keeps a poster of this film at her desk in her home office.

Balancing family life and a dynamic career, Marina and her husband like to spend quality time in their countryside home, located an hour from Barcelona in a small village with 300 inhabitants. 

Marina’s journey into the world of chemistry began in high school. While many are inspired by exceptional teachers, Marina’s fascination with the subject came interestingly from her own interest. She decided to choose chemistry the first time she started to study it. Choosing to specialize in organic chemistry during her college years, she later pursued a PhD in the same field.

Marina has a twin sister, who also happened to study organic chemistry. Their professional paths diverged after college, but they crossed paths again later when they worked at the same pharmaceutical company for a few years, though her sister has developed her career as a European patent attorney. As identical twins, we may never know who we happen to meet in Groningen (just kidding)! 

Marina’s pragmatism led her to abandon the academic world and pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry. She started her professional life as a process chemist at Uquifa, a Spanish CDMO and API manufacturer. There, Marina gained experience in large-scale operations, working for six years in a plant with reactors with capacities as large as 14,000 liters. Her familiarity with good manufacturing practice (GMP) activities became an asset, as she later transitioned through various roles in drug discovery and development.

Also involved in the manufacturing of products in small amounts for preclinical and initial clinical phases, Marina faced unexpected situations not related to chemistry when a few projects were cancelled by the client due to product toxicity or strategic decisions. This ignited in her interest in learning more about how a new drug is discovered, and she decided to move from drug development to the earlier stage, drug discovery.

Thus, in 2001, she started her journey in medicinal chemistry with Uriach, a Spanish pharmaceutical company, which later rebranded the R&D activities as a separate business unit called Palau Pharma. She stayed in the company for over 11 years, while she transitioned through different roles up to Team Leader, working on different discovery programs that reached phase 2 clinical trials, in the field of autoimmune diseases and inflammation.

Her journey included a collaboration with a Dutch company, Organon, where she enjoyed the open and honest scientific discussions and the famous “Dutch directness”. 

After some restructuring in the company, in 2012, Marina decided to move to a chemistry CRO, Enantia, where she created, mentored, and led the medicinal chemistry team. Though the company was comparatively very small, she enjoyed working on some really interesting projects for 11 years, including the design of several preclinical candidates and a clinical candidate for the treatment of pain that reached phase 1.

Her dual profile as both a medicinal chemist and a development chemist, her extensive experience in drug discovery, and her ability to lead teams made her an ideal fit for us. She also knows both sides of the coin, having served as a client hiring FTEs and CROs, as well as being on the CRO side, assisting clients in their projects.

Since May 2023, she has been Director of Medicinal Chemistry in our Groningen site, mentoring and overseeing the projects run by her team. She is also Project Leader of a small medicinal chemistry project that has now expanded into a larger team in process chemistry for an American client. 

Marina also expressed her admiration for Groningen, highlighting its diversity and inclusivity. She enjoys the vibrant atmosphere and the dynamics of the team, with colleagues of more than 15 different nationalities. Marina enjoys the city center’s lively atmosphere and is amazed by some Dutch traditions, which she finds peculiar, like early dinner hours and cycling happily, irrespective of the weather.

We are grateful to have Marina Virgili as a valuable member of our team, bringing a unique perspective to Symeres. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from our talented colleagues.

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