50th Anniversary: Dr Lincoln Tsang Q&A

50 Aston Greats - Dr Lincoln Tsang

Dr Lincoln Tsang

Dr Lincoln Tsang in a partner in law firm, Arnold & Porter’s, London office. His practice is focused on the life sciences industry including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, in vitro diagnostic devices, cosmetics and food, with particular emphasis on the intersection of the law and public policy. He graduated from Aston with a PhD in Pharmacy in 1990 and served as a senior official of the UK Regulatory Authority for nearly 13 years, where he was head of biotechnology and biologicals.

What encouraged you to choose Aston?

I chose Aston because I was impressed by the strengths of the University in applied pharmaceutical research, and the ability of the research groups (and they were encouraged to do so) to work on a cross-discipline basis. This was particularly the case within the Cancer Research Campaign Experimental Cancer Chemotherapy Group and the Medical Research Council Toxicology Group within the pharmaceutical sciences institute in the 1980s. In addition, during my visit to the University for an interview, the senior members of the department were very generous with their time, introducing me to the key members of the research group. I came away feeling good about Aston as a place, where I would enjoy spending my next three years. And I did. I was fortunate enough to be part of the research team led by Malcolm Stevens that discovered temozolomide, a drug which has now been approved for treating brain cancer. 

What do you think makes Aston special and distinctive?  

Aston has evolved over the years and become a seriously credible and inclusive academic institution. The University makes sure that you work hard and play hard. Being a small University is not and has never been a handicap in my view. During my time at Aston, I had easy access to internal and external resources and experts for advice when I needed it. Believe me - that happened quite often when I was a researcher. Multi-disciplinary working was encouraged. Senior professors were not formal or stuffy. New ideas were respected within reason. All of these things constitute the core values of what Aston is all about, and why it is special and distinctive.

What memories do you have of your time at Aston?

There are too many to mention. Suffice to say, Aston is a dynamic and inclusive institution. Malcolm Stevens, who was head of the Pharmacy department, is truly inspirational as an academic. He and other directors of the Cancer Research Campaign Group taught me the importance of translating bench science to applied science for the benefit of society at large, and in particular patients with an unmet medical need. Each research project with the Cancer Research Campaign Group had a very clearly defined and practical objective, and there was plenty of opportunity to share my experiences with fellow colleagues. 

How did Aston set you on your career path?

My career path has been largely guided by opportunities, which have provided new challenges. No-one can possibly plan a career plan ten years in advance, but one can be prepared to meet these new challenges. Each stage of my career has taught me a great deal to prepare me for the next stage. Aston prepared the foundation for me. I trained originally in Pharmacy and became a regulator for product approvals for nearly 13 years. Now I am practicing full-time as a lawyer specialising in EU law and administrative law relevant to the life sciences industry. My time at Aston has been influential in my approach to management and problem-solving - in my legal practice as well as in my advisory role to various governments and industries.

What advice would you give to today’s graduates?

Enjoy what you do, and work hard. Be prepared for the next challenge in your career path; be respectful to opposing views; learn from the others; be generous to your colleagues and family, and do not settle for the second-best.