In celebration of February 11, International Day of Women & Girls in Science
'My advice to anyone starting now is to keep pushing themselves to find motivation and to take or create as many opportunities as possible to explore a variety of skills until they find their real passion'
Dr. Evelina Papaioannou is part of the Research & Development Department of NIPD Genetics, and she is responsible for managing the intellectual property portfolio of the company, drafting and filing patent and trademark applications, replying to objections raised by patent examiners, and identifying opportunities for new patent applications.
How did you decide to go into science?
Ever since I was a young girl, I was fascinated by how the human body works, how it repairs itself, and how it defends itself against pathogens. Next to that, I was puzzled by questions such as why some people are more prone to certain diseases or syndromes than others, and I wanted to understand as much as I could about what goes on inside our bodies. When I was at school doing my A level courses, my Biology teacher noticed my passion for the field and encouraged me to pursue a Biology-related career.
How did you decide on the specific field of science?
After obtaining my PhD in Microbiology and completing my Post-doc, I knew that I wanted to explore new opportunities. I enjoyed the laboratory work considerably, but I always had a strong desire to do more than research. It was at that point that a big realization kicked in. A PhD gives you an enormous set of skills that can be transferred to many science-related fields. After all, if you build your career based on your deepest interests, you can always find ways to stay connected to it, while also developing other skills that might suit you more.
My passion for science together with my excitement of translating what happens in the laboratory into a different language for different audiences, led to a turning point in my career and I found myself working initially as a medical writer and subsequently as an intellectual property officer. The multidisciplinary nature of my current role is exciting to me. As an Intellectual Property Officer, I am responsible for a large number of different projects and as a result, no two days are ever the same. A day at work can consist of identifying novel key technological advances, drafting patent applications, responding to objections raised by the patent examiners, tracking the status of a large number of projects, understanding in great detail what the various teams of the research and development department do, keeping up to date on intellectual property laws, communicating with our lawyers, translating legal terminology to the Research & Development team, and also briefing the team on what is required from each of them, for achieving a successful patent application.
Which aspect of your field do you find the most interesting and which the most challenging?
What I love the most in my job is seeing a project through “from start to finish.” For example, we start with an idea for an inventive method. This idea is put into practice by the rest of the scientists in my team and if it is successful, I write the patent application. Once filed, the application enters a long-lasting review period of 3-4 years. During this period, we provide arguments to address any objections raised by the examiners and as soon as the novelty and inventiveness criteria for our method are met, the patent gets granted. The most challenging part of my field is choosing the right technical and legal words to describe any new invention and to prove novelty and inventiveness of said invention over the information already available in the field.
How is your work connected to the work of others?
My role at the company is like that of an interpreter. I need to be able to understand three different languages – Technology, Business, and Law – and I need to be able to translate each of them to the people using the other two languages.
What tools/qualities do you find indispensable for your field?
The qualities I find indispensable for my field are analytical skills, technical and legal writing skills, lateral thinking, oral and written communication skills, the ability to work alone, dealing with large amount of information of various kinds, and an eye for detail as well as being able to see the bigger picture. Time management is also particularly important.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way that changed the way you used to think?
There are many lessons to be learned in the Intellectual Property field. For instance, before embarking on my new role, I never thought that mentioning thoughts for a new invention at a scientific conference could impact the novelty of the invention. In addition, I had previously thought that the rights of an idea belong to the first person who have thought of it, and not to the first person who has filed a patent application for that exact idea. As a result, I now find myself thinking in different ways than before, while approaching my work.
What is the best advice you ever received that would help a young scientist who is starting now?
The best advice I have received was to build on my passion and not to limit myself to what I believe I can achieve. We always tend to underestimate ourselves and we are afraid to try things that are unknown to us. Science is fascinating but it takes a lot of determination, patience, and trial and error, which can easily demotivate someone. My advice to anyone starting now is to keep pushing themselves to find motivation and to take or create as many opportunities as possible to explore a variety of skills until they find their real passion.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for young scientists (in Cyprus)? What are the best ways to overcome these?
Challenges faced by young scientists in Cyprus might include the limited number of people involved in science in comparison to the number of scientists in other countries. As a result, young scientists in Cyprus may not get the opportunity to explore and learn as much as they would do in other countries, or they might feel that they have limited access to communication with fellow scientists from abroad. However, with the current technological advances, it is now possible for young scientists to virtually attend international conferences and enhance their knowledge in the fields that interest them. Next to that, with the increasing number of exchange programs promoting mobility, young scientists can easily visit international laboratories for short periods of time, and learn new techniques, try out new equipment and be exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking.
What has changed the most since you became a scientist and how different do you think the scientific world would be in 10 years?
What I noticed changing the most since I became a scientist is the automation of many techniques that previously had to be performed manually. In addition, looking at the job market, I have noticed an increased diversity of roles where a PhD is a requirement. During the Covid pandemic it was also nice to see how recent technology was successfully applied to speed up the development of vaccines against a life-threatening disease. I firmly believe that with the increased funding in science and the increased knowledge and technology available, in the next 10 years more and more health-related issues will be targeted with greater ease. The quality of life of people suffering from a variety of disorders will be greatly improved.
Which scientific discovery has impressed you/are you most fascinated by and why?
It is very hard to name a specific discovery that impressed me the most, as I consider many of them fascinating. However, having extensive education on host-pathogen interactions I would have to admit that I am somewhat biased to be impressed by the discoveries made in this field. If I must pick a certain discovery, it would be the one of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a Hungarian gynecologist who is known as a pioneer of antiseptic procedures. Semmelweis observed a remarkably high maternal mortality from puerperal fever following births assisted by doctors and medical students, whereas births attended to by midwives were generally safe. He then noticed that the doctors had often performed autopsies beforehand and concluded that puerperal fever was contagious and that these autopsies were the source of this contagion. As a result of his observations, he made the discovery that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. At the time of his discovery, nobody was pleased to think that doctors were responsible for the deaths, and Semmelweis was ridiculed and was thought crazy by others for asking the doctors to wash their hands. His theory was only accepted in the field years after his death, when the French microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory. It is fascinating to see how one brave individual went against all beliefs to prove his theory, and it shows how amazing science is and how it can impact our daily lives.
Dr. Evelina Papaioannou received her BSc in Molecular Cellular Biology at the University of Southampton and her MSc in Molecular Medical Microbiology at the University of Nottingham. Winning the prestigious Marie-Currie fellowship, she went on to pursue a PhD in Microbiology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where she also worked as a postdoctoral researcher for several years. Dr. Papaioannou has written several scientific publications, and has won a scholarship and several other awards during her education and work experience. She has extensive work experience as a Medical Writer, a GDPR Consultant and an Intellectual Property Officer. Dr. Papaioannou joined NIPD Genetics in 2019 as an Intellectual Property Officer and is part of the Research & Development Department.
NIPD Genetics is a leading, innovative biotechnology company that designs, develops, and provides a
broad spectrum of healthcare services to its customers through its expansive portfolio of molecular
and clinical laboratory tests in all disciplines.
At NIPD Genetics we are committed to protecting and respecting our customer’s privacy and personal
information. Personal information or personal data means any information that identifies, relates to,
describes, is capable of being associated with, or could be reasonably linked, directly or indirectly, with
a particular individual, such as name, identification number, location data, an online identifier or to
one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social
identity of that individual.
NIPD Genetics collects and processes your personal information according to the General Data
Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and the Cypriot law providing for the protection of natural
persons with regards to the processing of personal data and for the free movement of such data (L.
125(I)/2018). The following principles lie at the heart of our approach to handling personal data:
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Purpose limitation – We only use personal data for the purpose for which they have been
Data minimization – We only collect the data that is absolutely necessary in relation to
purposes for which they are processed.
Accuracy – We take every reasonable step to ensure that personal data collected are
and up to date.
Storage limitation – We do not keep personal data for longer than it is needed. Personal
periodically reviewed and erased if they are not needed or anonymized and stored for scientific
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in place to ensure that personal data are adequately protected from any unauthorised or illegal
processing and accidental loss, destruction or damage.
Accountability – We, at NIPD Genetics, are committed to compliance with all legal
and promote internal practices to achieve the highest standards for personal data privacy.
NIPD Genetics has appointed a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who is responsible for overseeing and
ensuring that personal information is collected and processed in line with these principles. The contact
details of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) can be found below:
Postal address: 31 Neas Engomis street, 2409 Engomi, Nicosia, Cyprus
Telephone number: + 357 22266888
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We collect and process several types of personal information from and about users of our websites
and of our products and services, including:
Personal and sensitive information: some of our products and services may involve testing
biological samples that we or our customers use to create test reports, genotyping or sequencing
services for research or clinical purposes and the receipt, creation, or analysis of genomic or other
data derived from samples, including through our customer’s use of our software as a service
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Your personal information is collected by NIPD Genetics for the following purposes:
To provide you with our products and services, respond to your inquiries or fulfill your requests
and otherwise manage your relationship with us. The legal basis for processing is to meet the
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To monitor and record information relating to the use of our products and services, including our
website. The legal basis for processing is our legitimate interest in order to improve our products
and services and our website for individuals.
To provide our products and services, NIPD Genetics may collect, receive and process biological
samples to isolate and sequence DNA. NIPD Genetics may then store resulting genetic information
and use genetic information to provide our products and services. In some cases, NIPD Genetics may
provide interpretations of genetic information on behalf of its customers, including healthcare
providers. This is only done pursuant to a written contract or a Sample Information Form with a
patient’s informed consent and is subject to applicable legal and ethical safeguards.
This sensitive information described above is collected by NIPD Genetics for the following purposes:
To provide support and maintenance services to customers who use our products and services –
The legal basis for processing is to meet the requirements of a contract.
To provide genotyping and sequencing services and analysis for our customers, including
healthcare providers. The legal basis of this processing is to meet the requirements of a contract
or as allowed in the Sample Information Form with a patient’s informed consent.
To conduct genotyping and sequencing services and analysis for quality control, process and
product development and improvements, and optimization in our labs to reflect quality
improvements and advances in our technology. The legal basis for processing is the patient’s
informed consent given through the Sample Information Form.
Transfer of Data
Your information, including personal data, may be transferred to - and maintained on - computers
located outside your province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection
laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.
If you are located outside Cyprus and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer
the data, including personal data, to Cyprus and process it there.
agreement to that transfer.
NIPD Genetics will take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and
an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your
data and other personal information.
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NIPD Genetics complies with the General Data Protection Regulation and will not sell or trade your
NIPD Genetics may disclose your personal information in the good faith that such action is necessary:
To comply with a legal obligation
To protect and defend the rights or property of NIPD Genetics
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To protect against legal liability
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We are committed to protecting the security of the information we collect, and we take reasonable
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PERSONAL DATA RETENTION
We may retain collected information even after you remove it from the website, our Services, or our
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personal information varies depending on the purpose for its use and we may delete or retain your
personal information in accordance with applicable law.
We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate, maintain or operate our websites
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These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and
are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.
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We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our website, prior to the change
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NIPD Genetics ensures that it can respond immediately to requests that you make for the exercise of
your legal rights in accordance with data protection laws. These rights are as follows:
The right to withdraw consent at any time – in cases where processing is based on your
The right of access – at any given time you have the right to know what information about you
we hold and receive information about the processing activities we perform
The right to rectify – you have the right to correct, amend and complete personal data that is
The right to erasure (“right to be forgotten”) – you can request that your personal information
The right to object – you can object at any time to our processing of your personal information
The right to restriction of processing – this applies in the event:
You dispute the accuracy of your personal information and until it is verified
You oppose to the deletion of personal data and ask instead to delete the use of it
The personal information is no longer necessary for us
You object to the processing and we are considering whether our legitimate grounds
for processing prevail over the reasons you oppose to the processing
The right to data portability – at any given time you have the right to receive the personal
information we hold about you in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format
(pdf, word etc.). You also have the right to request that these data are transferred to another
service in a safe and secure way
You also have the right to lodge a complaint at any time to the Office of the Commissioner for Personal
We encourage you to contact us, should you wish to practice any of your legal rights or you have any