Meet Waltraud, Chair Clinical Research Fellowship Program (CRFP) and Senior Clinical Scientist

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Hi, my name is…

…Waltraud, and I’m a Senior Clinical Scientist in the group working on Neuroscience, Ophthalmology and Rare Diseases (NORD). NORD is part of Pharma Research and Early Development at Roche (pRED).

Before I joined the pharmaceutical industry, my research areas were the hearing system in echo-locating bats and the coordination of the visual system and sense of balance in humans – the field in which I did my PhD and postdoctoral studies.

Before I joined Roche in 2010, I worked for a number of other pharmaceutical companies. Most of the time I was involved in the development of new compounds to treat the symptoms of neurological and psychiatric diseases. However, I also worked in other disease areas such as hematology, oncology and ophthalmology.

Today, I’m very excited to present to you a new program we have created in our group (pRED NORD).

The Clinical Research Fellowship Program (CRPF)…

…welcomes medical doctors (MDs) from academia. It was created last year, drawing on the experience and ideas from people in discovery, translational medicine and translational technology. The candidate will be assigned to a project within pRED NORD in line with his or her interests and experience for about 50-70% of his/her time. The remaining time will be used for key learnings beyond the program. Both components will help the candidate to understand the value chain and to learn how a molecule can develop into a medicine.

We also offer Fellows a comprehensive mentoring program so that they can rapidly integrate into the group and become familiar with the pharmaceutical industry's mindset. They will meet highly motivated and passionate teams that look forward to the candidates' fresh input and perspectives.

Roche provides employment for these candidates for one year, which can be extended to a second year. During their time at Roche, the candidates are able to build a network within the pharmaceutical industry. Some may also have the opportunity to find an appropriate position and start their career.

Basel is an exciting location for the CRFP because…

…we have excellent universities (e.g. University of Basel, ETH Zurich) close by as well as close and well-established collaboration between academia and Roche. This provides a productive network for sharing knowledge and experience and learning from each other. One of the best places to work is undoubtedly Building 1, “the Roche Tower”. Friends are quite jealous of the fantastic view I have from my desk each day, and I also enjoy having a coffee at Pebbles, the restaurant on level 38 that offers impressive views of Basel and the surrounding area. The city of Basel itself is very attractive and liveable. Its cultural offerings are vast. Most of all, I enjoy visiting the exhibitions at Fondation Beyeler or the Kunstmuseum, or going to a concert in one of the beautiful churches. However, there's much more to explore, and on hot summer days there's nothing better than finishing your work day with a swim in the Rhine.

The work of Clinical Research Fellows helps Roche to …

…gather fresh ideas and perspectives on preclinical and clinical drug development. With their different outlook, the Clinical Research Fellows are able to contribute an academic patient-centric perspective to clinical development and share their ideas on new endpoints, to bring to Roche the experience they have gained from their daily interaction with patients, and to challenge experienced drug developers here in the company with “out of the box” ideas. The Fellows help us to follow our goal “Doing now what patients need next”. If a candidate returns to academia after attending the program, he or she will be part of an alumni network of investigators for clinical trials who will bring an increased understanding of the pharmaceutical industry's mindset and needs to their workplace. They will also act as advocates for further candidates who might be interested in the program.

Roche as an employer is…

…supporting the exchange of open-minded physicians to enhance preclinical and clinical drug development. This program reflects the commitment of Roche/pRED NORD in expanding knowledge of drug development outside the organization and giving the academic world insights into the pharmaceutical industry. Preclinical and clinical drug development is a global undertaking, and our diversity is huge. Team members come from all over the world. Working with skilled and talented people to exchange experience and ideas and to develop future treatments is great fun. And having fun greatly helps people to be creative and develop new concepts – and to put these into practice.

In the Clinical Research Fellowship Program we’re looking for people who…

…are curious, motivated and enthusiastic, and want to gain a new perspective on compound development. To ensure that our candidates get the most out of their year in pRED NORD, they will have three mentors:

  • the Scientific Mentor, who will assist candidates in defining and attaining the goal of the fellowship program and support “learning on the job”;
  • the Career Mentor, who will help them to understand the pharmaceutical industry and to reflect on their career path and personal development; and
  • the Program Mentor, who will guide candidates through the onboarding process and ensure by means of regular “check-ins” that the fellowship program's goals will be reached.

The candidates will be experienced MDs or MD/PhDs after or close to completion of their specialty training (e.g. neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics) with experience in basic or clinical research.

What distinguishes the science at Roche from your experience at university?

As I already joined the pharmaceutical industry 20 years ago – and never regretted it – I asked a colleague who joined Roche two years ago after a very successful career in academia:

“From the perspective of a recent academia-to-Roche transplant, I'd say the most important distinguishing feature is the enormous level of collaboration that goes into moving scientific projects forward at Roche. It is our goal to develop novel medicines addressing unmet medical needs. This goal can only be achieved if many talented scientists with a broad spectrum of expertise pull together. “

Has Waltraud captured your interest? Find more information here.

Tags: Switzerland, Career Blog, Basel, Research