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Interview with Peter Rosholm, Novozymes


Experienced in engineering and global business, Peter Rosholm epitomizes Novozymes.

Company loyalty can be scarce in the life sciences, but not among Novozymes leaders. “I’ve worked with the same company for 25 years,” says Novozymes Biopharma Vice President Peter Rosholm. “What attracted me is the same thing that attracts people today: innovation, growth, vision, strong management, commercial development opportunities, and social responsibility. Novozymes was like that when I started and it’s like that now.” The global industrial biotechnology company, headquartered in Bagsværd, Denmark, is known for enzymes that enhance household products, foods and beverages, bioenergy production, and agriculture.

Right place, time, and background

Rosholm has led Biopharma since Novozymes created the unit in 2006 to consolidate pharma-focused work and acquisitions including Delta Biotechnology, which brought production of animal-free, recombinant human albumin to Novozymes. Among other uses, albumin is a vaccine stabilizer and blood substitute component. Novozymes Biopharma also produces hyaluronic acid, used in medical devices and pharma products, using the safe bacterium Bacillus subtilis.

All these product details were new to Rosholm, but not management of a complex operation. “In 2006,” he says, “I was living in Austria, responsible for Novozymes sales in Household Care in 86 countries, mainly emerging markets.” Novozymes chose Rosholm to head Biopharma, in part based on his company expertise. “I’m not a pharma man,” Rosholm says, “but I had international commercial experience and knew how to liaison with Novozymes management.” Rosholm has a Master’s degree in Biotechnology Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark and an Executive MBA, making him a good fit to lead Biopharma.

In addition, Delta was in the United Kingdom, and Rosholm had global experience to help him quickly and smoothly connect the new acquisition to the company. Early in his career, Rosholm spent four years in Malaysia as Regional Business Manager. He says that the international outlook that comes from living abroad is a business advantage in the life sciences and other global industries. He still travels often, including to Asia six or seven times a year. “Asia is a growth engine for many industries, not just life sciences,” he says. “From ’95 to ‘99 I lived in Malaysia but also visited China, Japan and other Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Early in my career, I was injected with the culture and the ways of doing business in those countries.” The experience was formative, says Rosholm. “The more time you spend in an environment, the better you are at adapting to similar future situations.”

A can-do, engineer’s attitude

Staying with an organization long-term means learning, improving on, and reinforcing the work culture. “One thing I especially like about Novozymes,” says Rosholm, “is that so many people do well themselves while also helping other people develop.” As an example, Rosholm says he learned much from Per Falholt, the Novozymes CSO for R&D, who originally hired Rosholm. Like all but one of the Novozymes Executive Leadership Team, as well as Rosholm, Falholt has an engineering education. This background might explain the problem-solving work philosophy that Falholt demonstrated to Rosholm, and Rosholm passes on to aspiring business leaders.

“Take responsibility for your own situation,” Rosholm says. “Go beyond expectations. You should do what you are asked to do, of course, but if you have something else to contribute, don’t hold back, do it.” This sounds like business school boilerplate, but rings true from Rosholm, in part, because his advice is supported by a personal story about a recent Copenhagen marathon. “I registered to run,” he says, “but had to go on a business trip so I couldn’t do it that day. So when I returned, I got up in the morning and ran the course on my own.” Rosholm is not bragging, although he was satisfied that, at about three and one-half hours, he ran 10 minutes faster than his previous time. He tells the story to emphasize the importance of being driven from within. “Whatever you do,” he says, “your motivation has to come from yourself. Don’t let it come from conditions around you. Take charge and don’t wait for people to do things for you.”


Peter Rosholm

Position: Vice President, Novozymes Biopharma

Education: 1990, Master of Biotechnology Engineering, Technical University of Denmark; 2005, Executive MBA, Scandinavian International Management Institute (now in Copenhagen Business School)

Professional career: 1990, started at Novozymes. Positions include Regional Business Manager, Malaysia, responsible for Southeast Asia; Senior Marketing Manager; Strategic Account Director; Marketing Director; Senior Sales Director, Austria, responsible for Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union.

Personal: Born 1965. Married to a landscape architect with three children. Family lives in Denmark and enjoys sailing.