Director of Biostatistics Lisa Comarella

In this blog of ‘Career Insights’ series we talk to Lisa Comarella, Director of Biostatistics of CROS NT, to find out more on her career path, achievements, current role at CROS NT and her interests outside of work.

Have you always been interested in Life Sciences?

When I graduated from the high school and had to decide which university to attend, it was not an easy choice. I liked maths and science and I chose statistics as it seemed to fit with my skills and preferences. My specialisation is statistics and demographic science. My first job was related to analysis of data collected by a telephone company. I kick-started my career as a statistician in the Life Sciences about a year after my graduation. I liked it immediately and now when I look back I am really happy with the choice I made.

Lisa Comarella Director of BiostatisticsWhat has been your journey to your current role at CROS NT?

It started 20 years ago when I met Paolo Morelli, CEO and Owner of PM Holding. I did not know a lot about clinical research at that time, but it seemed interesting. I joined CROS NT as biostatistician, relocated from Padova where I lived to Verona.

When I joined CROS NT, the company was very small. That is why I had a chance to try a look of new tasks and learn a lot! As a statistician, I used to program not only the outputs themselves, but also the database in SAS and the consistency checks to produce the queries.

When the company started to grow and to specialise, I became a Lead Statistician acting also as Project Manager. I loved it, as I was working a lot on challenging Phase III trials. Now I am heading the Department of Biostatistics and continue to mentor the junior team members and interns.

What does your day typically look like?

It is full of different tasks! For example, I am working closely with our Business Development team on RFP and RFI preparation. The rest of my time is dedicated to managing the team of biostatisticians and to supporting them in their projects and professional growth. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic started it is difficult to meet in person, but nonetheless I am doing frequent video calls with them to keep in touch.

What do you enjoy the most about working in CROS NT?

When I was involved in project work as a statistician, I liked the big variety of projects we worked on. As someone who works in a CRO, I have an opportunity to support different clients and work on different projects in different therapeutic areas. I also like that there are always new challenges and I never stop learning!

What has been your most interesting project in CROS NT so far?

In 20 years in CROS NT, I had more than one interesting project!

At the beginning of my carrier I was assigned as lead statistician to an observational study in hypertension. I enjoyed attending meetings with clinicians and key opinion leaders and discussing the results and the strategies for publication. This is when I learnt how to work efficiently with clinicians!

Working on important Phase III trials with FDA and EMA submission and compounds registration was also great experience.

Another very interesting project I was in was the implementation of the first electronic CRF. It was 2003 and it was on an observational study on HIV and the investigators were not used to enter data in the eCRF. Technology, connectivity and lack of experience were challenging, but we concluded the project with great success!

There are so many examples of great projects that it is difficult to choose! I think I learned something from each project and all of them contributed to my experience and my expertise.

What most inspires you about working within Life Sciences field?

The fact that the results of my work and my effort will help the clinical research field to progress and make people lives a bit better. I have supported studies that led to the registration of the compound and gave more chances and options to cure ill patients. We are also supporting studies in rare disease which are complex and challenging, but if we are successful, it will be a great opportunity for patients.

Imagine talking to a group of junior biostatisticians – what would you advise them?

I would tell them to work hard, to be passionate, curious and to take the job and professional development seriously. I would suggest them to not sit in the comfort zone but to accept the challenges they face. And most of all, to think outside the box!

What are your personal values?

My personal values are passion, trust, honesty and respect.

What do you love to do in your spare time?

I have always been an active person, doing running, skiing, trekking. Now that I live in a town on the hills, I like walking and cycling. I also practice yoga and meditation.

From 2015 I am a president of a local committee which organises and promotes cultural events in the town where I live. It is a great opportunity to give back to the town I was born and where I currently live.

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