Preclinical Toxicologist at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine

Mar 19, 2024
Preclinical Toxicologist at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine

Kelsey Johnson, PhD, is a preclinical Toxicologist. She coordinates toxicology studies focused on assessing potential adverse effects of novel pharmaceutical compounds.

What is the highest degree you have earned and what can you tell us about your academic path?

PhD. I’ve always been intrigued with cell dynamics and agents that disrupt cell behavior. Prior to college I spent some time working in a ecotoxicology laboratory (investigating the impact of environmental chemicals on cardiac teratogenesis in fish models). I had a very positive experience with my lab and mentors, and I enjoyed academic investigation so I was motivated to pursue a B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of South Florida. At USF I had a positive experiences— I enjoyed my courses and I spent free time volunteering at a research lab at Moffitt Cancer Center. Through that experience I conducted cell biology investigations (focused on evaluating cell signaling dynamics of certain small molecule inhibitors), and also took opportunities to shadow oncologists and learn from patients, with their disease, and treatments. This led me to pursue a PhD in Cancer Biology at Baylor University where I investigated epigenetic signaling pathways and their role as potential pharmacologic targets in breast cancer.

Where do you work now and what is your company about?

I work at Johnson and Johnson Innovative Medicine. Broadly JNJ is about bringing the best medicines to patients with unmet medical needs.

How did you first learn about the company?

I’ve known about JNJ for a while! For at least a decade though I do not remember the context outside being a successful pharmaceutical company.

What do you like most about the company?

I like most the collaborative nature of JNJ and how we leverage teams and expertise across the globe.

What skills make you successful in your role and why did you choose this role?

I enjoy collaborating and connecting with broad scientists to discuss and learn. The core of the role is to coordinate broad groups of scientists—internally or sometimes externally, and design scientifically robust toxicology studies. I do this by staying organized and communicating clearly.

How do you define success?

I would define success as peace. Success is having peace with your role and personal contributions.

What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

The most fulfilling aspect of my job is that I get to learn from many talented scientists about novel therapeutics from many vantage points — the chemical structure and properties, its pharmacological target, physiological complexities, toxicologic properties, project strategy, regulatory preparations, etc. There’s so many opportunities to learn and apply this knowledge.

What advice do you have for students and job seekers?

Align yourself with a research topic that drives you and makes it exciting to go the extra mile! If you don’t have it where you are, then have the courage to take a step that would align you to a research topic that makes it exciting to go that extra mile.

What book did you read last?

Embarrassingly I will admit I haven’t read a book in a while! Instead I’ve been watching some great documentaries on food processing, production, and supply chain as well as some Dutch language lessons.