Q & A WITH DR. EVELINA PAPAIOANNOU

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.


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NIPD Genetics - Privacy Policy

General Statement

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:

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:

Email address: dpo@nipd.com

Postal address: 31 Neas Engomis street, 2409 Engomi, Nicosia, Cyprus

Telephone number: + 357 22266888

By accessing or using our products or services, or by transmitting information to us by email or other electronic means, you accept our policies, procedures and practices described in this Privacy Policy. If you do not agree with our policies, procedures and practices as described, you can choose not to access or use our products or services or not to transmit personal information to us.

This Privacy Policy applies to NIPD Genetics facilities, its websites www.nipd.com, www.nipdlabs.com, www.nipdlabs.com.cy and their subdomains, that link to this privacy pol icy.

PERSONAL INFORMATION COLLECTION AND PROCESSING

We collect and process several types of personal information from and about users of our websites and of our products and services, including:

Information about children

If you are under 18 years of age, do not register on our website or provide any information about yourself to us. We do not provide our products or services directly to children or proactively collect their personal information. Despite this prohibition, it is possible that we may sometimes be given information about children while handling samples from our customers in our clinical labs, or through use of our products and services by our customers and partners. If we become aware that we have inadvertently collected personal information from children under the age of 18, without parental consent, we will take the necessary steps to delete it as soon as possible in compliance with applicable laws.

LEGAL BASIS FOR PROCESSING OF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION

Your personal information is collected by NIPD Genetics for the following purposes:

  1. 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 requirements of a contract, to comply with our legal obligations and/or because we have a legitimate interest in responding to requests for information about our products and services.
  2. To communicate with you about content and product offerings, newsletters and event invitations which are relevant to your interests and in line with your preferences. The legal basis for processing is the individual’s explicit consent prior to sending the information and managing individuals preferences.
  3. To process and respond to complaints. The legal basis for processing is to meet a legal obligation.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

NIPD Genetics will take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your personal information will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure of Data

NIPD Genetics complies with the General Data Protection Regulation and will not sell or trade your personal information.

NIPD Genetics may disclose your personal information in the good faith that such action is necessary:

COOKIES AND OTHER TRACKING TECHNOLOGIES

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifiers. Cookies are sent to your browser when you visit a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies used on the website are beacons, tags and scripts, to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our websites.

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our websites and collect certain information. This includes information about the computer or device you are using, such as Internet protocol (IP) address, information about the browser type or version, the pages of our website that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our websites.

Examples of Cookies we may use:

Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our websites.

Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.

Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Visitor behavior cookies. To understand how visitors use and navigate the websites

Keyword cookies. To understand how visitors discover the websites.

ANALYTICS

We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our websites.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.

You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.

For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page

SECURITY OF DATA

We are committed to protecting the security of the information we collect, and we take reasonable physical, technical, and administrative safeguards such as data anonymization and encryption to help protect personal information from unauthorized or inappropriate access or use. It is your responsibility to protect the confidentiality of your passwords, and any other access features associated with your access or use of the website or our products and services, as well as to adhere to any applicable Terms of Use or other contract between us and you or your organization.

PERSONAL DATA RETENTION

We may retain collected information even after you remove it from the website, our Services, or our Products, to comply with applicable law, to resolve disputes, to enforce any rights in connection with the website, our Services, or our Products, and to use as provided in this Privacy Policy, the Terms of Use, or an applicable contract between us and you or your organization. How long we retain specific personal information varies depending on the purpose for its use and we may delete or retain your personal information in accordance with applicable law.

SERVICE PROVIDERS

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate, maintain or operate our websites (“Service Providers”), to provide the websites on our behalf, to perform service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our websites are used.

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.

LINKS TO OTHER SITES

Our websites may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third-party link, you will be directed to that third party's site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third-party sites or services.

CHANGES TO THIS PRIVACY POLICY

This Privacy Policy may be updated from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our website, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the bottom of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS

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:

You also have the right to lodge a complaint at any time to the Office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection.

We encourage you to contact us, should you wish to practice any of your legal rights or you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, by sending an email to NIPD Genetics’ Data Protection Officer at dpo@nipd.com.

Effective date: 18/06/2021

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