Loyola Magazine

Loyola grad has found success by embracing risks and saying yes

Chris Miller, ’90, leads a team of world-class scientists at AstraZeneca
Chris Miller
Photo credit: John Coyle, ’88

In the summer of 2020, just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Christopher Miller, ’90, found himself sitting in his home office on an unexpected Zoom call with none other than Anthony Fauci, M.D., then-director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Miller, who has worked for biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the past 30 years, was discussing the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Prior to the call, Miller had been tasked with leading the biostatistical elements of the vaccine’s development.

“For a year and a half, I was working on [the vaccine] every hour, seven days a week, as fast as we could,” remembers Miller. “It was a sense of urgency that I had never experienced before.”

While Miller has since handed off the vaccine work to a separate team and returned to his role as vice President of biometrics (respiratory and immunology), the lessons from that time stay with him.

“Every day, we come across a challenge that we think is impossible to overcome,” he says, noting that he regularly works with physicians, lawyers, regulators, and clinical scientists around the world, from Barcelona to Bangalore. “It’s cool to sit around the virtual global table and tackle these problems together—and to really make a difference in terms of people’s health care.”

Miller has never been a stranger to challenges. In fact, he’s held 10 different positions since joining what was then called Zeneca in 1993, focusing on everything from regulatory affairs to health economics.

“I joined shortly after it became a stand-alone pharmaceutical company, and it grew around me,” he explains. “I’ve stumbled into opportunities throughout my career by knowing how to ask the right questions and try different things. And a lot of that is thanks to the confidence and the courage I got from Loyola.”

Miller, who grew up in Baltimore and currently lives in Poolesville, Maryland, likes to say he was destined to be a Greyhound, especially as the son of Melvin Miller, Ph.D., ’57, professor emeritus of chemistry. “My brother and I would come to campus and crawl around in the labs,” he says with a laugh. “I was born a Loyola baby.”

Miller graduated in 1990 with a degree in mathematics specializing in statistical sciences and a minor in computer science. After Loyola, he earned his M.S. in Statistics with a minor in Mathematics from North Carolina State University.

Miller, who was a member of the national Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu while at Loyola, says he applies his Jesuit education regularly in his career—from his ability to write clearly and construct compelling arguments for a broad set of stakeholders to leaning into his core values.

“It's good to have core values to lean on, to be able to keep the focus on the patients and the science. Doing the right thing is really important in decision-making in my job, developing medicines in an industry where there’s a lot at stake scientifically, ethically, politically, and financially,” he explains. Miller’s family also helps him stay grounded. He and his wife, Christina, a 1993 graduate of Loyola, have three children.

He credits the successes in his life with his ability to embrace risks.

“When my boss called me about working on the COVID vaccine, I could have said that I was too tired or too scared, and he would have found somebody else,” he says. “Say ‘yes’ first, and then figure out the support you need to get through it, because the best opportunities won’t always come around a second time.”