Kristin Wannerberger’s career path has taken her from Sweden, to Denmark and now, Switzerland, where she is Director R&D Alliance Management at Ferring.
As Head of R&D Alliance Management at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Kristin Wannerberger is today directing several alliances, including the up-and-coming field of human microbiota/microbiome. The human microbiome is the collection of microbial genomes that contribute to the broader genetic portrait of each human. This is a new interdisciplinary field and it has links to a number of conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
“To run projects and promote and facilitate collaborations within this field inspires me and it is fascinating. Ferring also offers a lot of opportunities for commitment,” she says.
Together with partners, Ferring is trying to increase our understanding of the microbiome, and also explore the potential of rehabilitating the gut microbiome to help people live better lives. The company began working in the microbiome space in 2008 and has since established long-lasting relationships, for example with Karolinska Institutet, Metabogen and Intralytix.
“By exploring the microbiome we can increase our knowledge about how our health is dependent on these living organisms and how they interact with our bodies.”
“By exploring the microbiome we can increase our knowledge about how our health is dependent on these living organisms and how they interact with our bodies,” says Kristin.
“The challenge is that it is such a complex system, so it is difficult to obtain accurate and sufficient data, and to reintroduce the living organisms in our regulated medical world – which today is built upon ʽdead molecules’,” she continues. “This challenge is approached through discussions with medical authorities and the establishment of new guidelines.”
An innovative region
One of the microbiome alliances that Kristin Wannerberger is involved in is Microbiome Signature Project that seeks to build the Greater Copenhagen’s cluster strengths by positioning it as a global center for microbiome research. In this region companies including Biogaia, Chr. Hansen, Ferring, Novozymes, Probi and SNIPR BIOME have a focus on the microbiome space and the universities located here also perform world-class research in this field. Researchers are for example exploring how microbiome influences illnesses such as asthma, diarrhea and obesity and how the microbiome can help women’s health.
“A lot of innovation and great research comes out of Medicon Valley.”
“Medicon Valley has the advantage of being a geographically small region with great potential for close collaborations. The regulations are similar and the mindsets are similar. A lot of innovation and great research comes out of this region.”
Go for it
Kristin Wannerberger began her career as a Research Scientist at AstraZeneca in Lund, Sweden, after finishing her M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, a Licentiate of Engineering degree and a Ph.D. in Biophysical Technology from Lund University.
After four years at AstraZeneca she started working as Associate Director at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Malmö in 2000. Two years later her position was transferred to Ferring’s International Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in 2006 she began working as Global Project Director at Ferring’s headquarters in Switzerland (FICSA). In 2016 she took up her current role as Director R&D Alliance Management, staying at Ferring and in Switzerland.
For life science students or young professionals looking for a career abroad she advises that you should go for it.
“You can always change your mind. But don’t underestimate the effort and energy that is required to establish oneself in a new country. If the company you work for helps you with this it makes it easier.”
The glass ceiling is everywhere
When I ask her about differences between the life science industries in Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, she mentions the fact that there are more established and bigger pharmaceutical companies in Denmark, and in particular in Switzerland. “Sweden and Switzerland are also both innovative countries with many startups,” Kristin adds.
“Sweden and Switzerland are also both innovative countries with many startups.”
When it comes to building a career in the different countries she says that leadership style and hierarchic organizations are more prevalent in Denmark than in Sweden, but even more so in Switzerland.
“For women, there are no differences between the countries. The so called glass ceiling still seems to be present everywhere – even now,” she concludes.