The Sage Gateshead music centre, across the River Tyne from Newcastle’s quayside (taken 5th January 2023)
VH Bio is pleased to introduce our new Transplant Technical Sales Specialist, Jess Brookes, who joined our team in January 2023! Get to know her in this lovely bio she has shared with us:
I was born in Sheffield to a Northern Irish father and a Fijian mother, then raised between North Wales and Athens, Greece. I have had a diverse upbringing and have an equally diverse HLA type (my mother is also part Tahitian, Tongan and Chinese, though you would not know it by looking at my four-year-old son, who is very fair with curly blonde hair and blue eyes!) I have always had an interest in genetics, pathology, and immunology (being a hayfever sufferer), which is what propelled me to study Biomedical Science.
In 2005, I moved to the vibrant city of Bristol to study at the University of the West of England. I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science in 2009 after a year of work placement as a Trainee Biomedical Scientist in North Bristol NHS Trust’s Biochemistry department. My undergraduate research project involved immunochemistry methods to ascertain whether proteins (branched-chain aminotransferases) could be switched on/off (by phosphorylation) to control the build-up of glutamate as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
After graduating, I landed a job at the Bristol Genetics Laboratory. My role as a Genetic Technologist (funded by a leukaemia research charity) involved molecular and cytogenetic oncology methods, such as qPCR, FISH, PCR-SSP, Sanger Sequencing, G-banding, cell culture, karyotyping, primer design, and more, to diagnose and monitor malignancies (predominantly childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia). It was a rewarding job in a thriving environment; however, my post was fixed-term, so I searched for something more permanent.
I began working as an HCPC-registered Biomedical Scientist in the Immunology & Immunogenetics department at Southmead Hospital in 2010, where I spent my first year in the Tissue Typing section. There, I grew competent in HLA typing by PCR-SSP, PCR-SSO and serology (Terasaki trays), as well as HLA antibody detection and identification using Luminex bead-based assays, and crossmatching by Flow Cytometry and Complement-Dependent Cytotoxicity. As well as working for the regional renal transplant service, I was heavily involved in on-call deceased donor typing and helped develop the virtual crossmatching service. I also participated in Transplant Steering Group meetings and rotated through other sections of the Immunology department (Immunophenotyping, Autoimmunity, Proteins, and Allergy), which were fascinating.
In 2017, I moved to H&I at NHS Blood & Transplant, where I was able to learn about haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), granulocyte immunology, platelet immunology, HLA-matched platelet provision, and HPA and HNA genotyping by PCR-SBT. I passed the BSHI Diploma in 2019 whilst on parental leave; after which, I became competent in post-HSCT Chimerism monitoring, HLA typing by Next Generation Sequencing, and really embraced the management and leadership aspect of my role, supporting the lab and my colleagues throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Recognising that my strengths lie in training others, supporting colleagues, and troubleshooting assays and software nuances, and feeling as though I needed a change, I reached out to VH Bio (who had always provided me with great service and support) and successfully interviewed for a role as a Transplant Technical Sales Specialist. I have just completed my induction week at their headquarters in Newcastle, where I had a wonderful time getting to know my new colleagues. I will be doing a deep dive over the coming weeks to refamiliarise myself with their product portfolio (many of which I have used), so I can get to work providing responsive support to H&I and academic research colleagues across the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Welcome to the team, Jess!