Meet the ttopstart team: Consultant Simona Čaputová

16 December 2022

At ttopstart we work in an international team of creative innovators. In our series ‘Meet the ttopstart team’ we introduce you to our colleagues. We interviewed Simona about her passion for science, love for her job and her journey.

When did your love for science and innovation start?

‘There comes a time during your university studies when you start asking yourself those deliberately-forgotten questions like ‘what do I actually want to do in life’? For the longest time, there was no clear answer. Or rather, it was the journey that was still unclear, the destination started shaping up, but it sounded so cliché that I was ashamed to even tell people about it. Throughout my studies I got to work on student consultancy cases with two companies, which, coincidentally or not, were both within the healthcare sector – one dealing with mental health issues, the other being an oncological clinic. While we had to treat these firms as regular companies, there was always this delicate aura hanging in the air – patients’ lives and health were at stake. This is when I realized that to participate within the healthcare and life sciences sector could be my journey.’

What is something biomedical innovators (people in your industry/niche) have to deal with that you want to fix?

‘After the brilliant ideas get their funding, which is already an incredibly competitive ground, they are facing yet another challenge, which is for the consortium of partners to work out and for the idea to actually live on after the development phase. Firstly, like in any relationship, there are struggles and challenges with the coordination. Being sunk so deep within the scientific hurdles, the partners need some struggles alleviated by a proper project management. Secondly, there is that on-going pressure on scientists to bring their innovation to life and implement it in practice after the funded period is over. This is incredibly complex, due to the variety of stakeholders that you are touching with your innovation, but also whose help you need to bring your brilliance to life. Stakeholder analyses, iterations of market research and external communication efforts and much more are needed. Both of these arenas are where ttopstart’s programme leadership team can help!’

Which project that you work(ed) on at ttopstart are you very proud of?

‘This is a very tricky question, but if I had to choose, I would probably pick the ConcePTION project. This is an IMI project, co-funded by the European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry. Their goal is to reduce uncertainty about the effects that drugs have for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals. More than 5 million individuals get pregnant in the EU every year and a majority take at least one medication during their pregnancy. However, only about 5% of available medications have been adequately assessed for the effect they have on pregnant and breastfeeding individuals and their babies. This is a huge gap. We are not only talking about a paracetamol here and there, but this is about individuals that need to take drugs due to conditions such as epilepsy, but also mental conditions. The fact that it remains unclear what medications are safe to take, and which not, is truly alarming. While the core of the ConcePTION project is to create an ecosystem where more evidence is generated on the use of drugs, and that in itself is an immense achievement, what I am really proud of is the patient engagement in this project. The team is doing an incredible job in taking pregnant and breastfeeding individuals along the way, including them in the discussions and co-creating with them. I think it’s crucial that they participate in the journey and that they help us see the immense burden they face when making everyday decisions on whether to stay safe themselves, or whether they make their babies safe. This is touching for me. At ttopstart, we are responsible for ensuring that this effort continues beyond the funding period, and I wish that we are able to deliver something that will truly help this vulnerable group in the society to live healthier lives -both for themselves and their babies.’

What are your credentials/past experience, for working in your position?

‘I have a degree in Strategic Management, which has trained me in thinking about how firms’ strategies are created and devised. This will be very useful when it comes to bringing new innovations to the market and commercializing them. I have worked on 2 student consultancy cases within the healthcare sector. These taught me to always put the patient on the pedestal, which is an important pre-requisite that can be leveraged in any project management related hurdles. I have also worked as a teaching assistant at Tilburg University for 2 years, where I got to organize meetings, moderate discussions and perform administrative tasks, which can be used in project management. Lastly, because I collaborated with professors, I got to know the backstage of academia and learn the ropes, which will come in handy within the consortia.’

What do you like most about working at ttopstart?

‘From the start, I have been loving the culture. Everyone is always there for you, ready to discuss, brainstorm and answer questions. You can go all the way from discussing serious, life-changing, life science topics to having fun talks and laughs during the lunch break. Everyone is treated equally and there is a mutual respect. For me, it’s incredibly exciting to be able to interact and discuss with consultants with more than 20 years of experience and with life scientists, who have completed their PhDs in fascinating life science fields.’

What’s your background?

‘I come from Slovakia, specifically from its capital Bratislava. I moved to the Netherlands in 2017 to pursue my bachelor studies. To this day I am grateful to my parents, who have always been supporting my dream of going abroad, even though the long-distance has always been a burden for us both. I get inspired by the idea of giving back to them and to my country. For now, Netherlands is my home, but I feel a strong urge to return back to Slovakia after some time, to be able to use my knowledge and make Slovakia prosper. We are a young democratic country, with a lot to learn from countries such as the Netherlands. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to live here and to use the knowledge I have acquired.’

What are the values that drive you?

My privilege – I am aware that not everyone has the same opportunities and living standards out there. What is taken for granted by you and me is what some people do not even have the time or capacity to dream about. I want to work from this position to be able to give back.

Mutual respect and acceptance – I want to remain open-minded in all my endeavors and not get stuck on my ways of doing things. Only because we are accustomed to something does not mean that’s the right way of doing it.

Eternal learner – It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to ask stupid questions. It’s okay to have a thing or two explained.’

Your motto:

‘Be the type of person you want to meet.’

 Thanks, Simona!

Do you want to become a ttopstarter as well?

Are you interested in joining our team? Check out our career page! We are always looking for talented and motivated people.

There are genius scientists out there that work days and nights to bring innovation and new technologies to life. However, without implementing and commercializing these innovations, not much would be changing. This is where I realized I could step in and contribute.


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