Jan Fleckner, STAR PostDoc, Novo Nordisk R&D STAR programme

When I’m not directing R&D

"When I am not at work, my three children occupy my time. While we lived in the US, we gained an appreciation for American culture that has in many ways amplified our appreciation for Danish customs and lifestyle now that we are home again. I am bringing some American colleagues to Denmark and I hope to show them what is great about Denmark."

Jan Fleckner

STAR PostDoc

“For me the STAR programme was the perfect opportunity to let the company get to know me and my competencies, while also allowing me to see if Novo Nordisk was the right place for me.”

My industry career started as a STAR fellow in 1996

The STAR programme allowed both me and Novo Nordisk to see if this was a good fit and since my supervisor was one of those people who likes to ‘seize an opportunity when it presents itself’, he decided to hire me full-time less than a year into my fellowship term.

Joining the STAR programme made sense

Back in the 90’s, Novo Nordisk needed to build up its competency in a new area of diabetes targets. The Head of Biotechnology was looking for scientists with experience in transcriptional analysis similar to what I got during my post doctoral thesis at Michael R. Green’s lab at the University of Massachusetts. I wanted to enter the pharmaceutical industry and apply my passion for science to making a real difference for people with serious diseases. Novo Nordisk was an obvious choice due to its prominence in Denmark and diabetes focus since my father was diagnosed with diabetes while I was in the US.

Fellowship leads to long company career

Since I finished my STAR fellowship 14 years ago, I have advanced to become Director of Molecular Genetics in the Biopharmaceuticals Research Unit at Novo Nordisk. We generate novel biologic treatments for people with chronic autoimmune diseases. Working in industry is very dynamic and change is part of industry life and you need to be able to see the opportunity in change. The good thing is that you are constantly confronted by new challenges and experiences that keep your work really interesting. Also, unlike academia, where the funding structure can lead to projects going on longer than they should, in industry you have both the determination and power to close projects that are no longer leading anywhere, thereby freeing up resources to support successful projects even more diligently.

Perpetuating STAR

Today, I turn to the STAR programme when looking for first-rate young scientists with new ideas and energy. So far, I have had five STAR fellows in my area, often doing exploratory science requiring novel technologies necessary to take us into new directions and feed innovations into our pipeline at Novo Nordisk.