Nicolai Wagtmann, Scandinavian Return Fellow, Novo Nordisk R&D STAR programme

When I’m not directing R&D

"My wife and I put a lot of emphasis on family life and doing things with our children. The area that we live in has a good infrastructure for families, making it easy to enjoy walks, bike rides, horseback riding and many sports activities with our children. When we need a taste of Mediterranean life, we enjoy spending time in our summer house in Corsica."

Nicolai Wagtmann

STAR Scandinavian Return Fellow

“I was first introduced to project teamwork as a STAR fellow; in academia, you tend to work more individually. We had very challenging tasks, which I never could have tackled alone but due to incredible teamwork, we succeeded.”

My industry career started as a STAR fellow in 2000

When my family relocated to Denmark from France, it was supposed to be only for the two-year term of the STAR fellowship programme. My wife is from Marseille so she was not too sure about making the move to Denmark but she was able to find a job here too and the STAR fellowship gave me a unique opportunity to apply my research training in immunology to the area of diabetes.

Thinking outside the box

My life has been characterised by a series of transitions requiring periods of intensive learning. A recurring theme has been the need to bring together different ways of thinking to solve problems in new ways and this was certainly true when I joined Novo Nordisk as a STAR fellow and again when I was asked to stay on as head of the team charged with applying the company’s protein competencies in diabetes to new challenges in immunology.

Ethics in science

Already as a university student, I was drawn to Novo Nordisk’s Triple Bottom Line business approach. During my tenure here, I have been involved in many situations where this approach has informed the process so that decisions were driven by values and ethics rather than by what was most expedient at the time or what had already been tried before. This is a way of working that feels right to me and has often led to more innovative solutions in my experience.

Innovation and globalisation

In my current position as Vice President of Inflammation Biology, I am still applying the same collective approach to solving problems and making progress in a valuedriven way. When we think about building a pipeline in a new area like inflammation, it is all about innovation and taking new ideas and advancing them through systematic efforts to solve problems. New problems require new and diverse skills base, different backgrounds for tackling and solving problems at any stage. I see globalisation as having a lot to do with bringing different people and their ideas together in a meaningful way. The Biopharmaceutical Research Unit at Novo Nordisk is a matrix organisation where projects are comprised of team members from R&D sites in Denmark, Seattle and Beijing. This mixing of thinking is the key to our success.