Karin Havenith PhD

Principal scientist, career path 'Science and research'

When she first started to work for Genmab Karin spent a lot of time in the lab conducting applied science. She has now moved to more buro-work, thinking up and evaluating applied science. Her current research project is coming to an end, and the final product is ready to go to market. 'In my job I get all the science without the networking and politics of academia. Yes, I really fit into this place more than I could ever have imagined.'

'The project I'm working on is in the final stage. The research is almost over and our product is ready to go market. This is very exciting time for me', says Karin Havenith. 'As a principal scientist I'm intimately involved in conducting research. I'm not a theoretician, my work here is very practical. I enjoy this part of science, wearing a white coat, spending time in the lab. At the moment I'm involved in thinking up and evaluating experiments.'

Genmab, together with partner GlaxoSmithKline submitted a Biologics Licence Application (BLA) to the US Food and Drug Administration for a product named Arzerra™ (ofatumumab) to treat patients whose chronic lymphocytic leukemia(CLL) has become resistant to previous therapies. If approved, ofatumumab will be the first anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody available for this patient population.

Karin started out studying animal husbandry at the Agricultural University at Wageningen, which may explain her affinity for applied research. She got attracted to the life sciences and therefore performed practical trainings at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge and at the RIVM in Bilthoven. 'I was lucky to obtain a PhD position and received my PhD from the Vrije Universiteit for lung-related research.'

Following her PhD research Karin spent 4 years as a postdoc at St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee. About her experience in the States she says: 'It was an exciting, inspiring place to work. I learned a lot from my peers. It turned out I wasn't the only one with doubts about an academic career.'

Her role at Genmab took shape while she was a postdoc in Amsterdam. 'When I came back from the States I found a job at the VU, back in my old lab. While I was there I took on a lot of other tasks, supporting clinical-research and working together with surgeons and supporting starting PhD students and other postdocs, while keeping my own project going.' This experience with research support still plays an important role today in her job at Genmab. 'But these were also very difficult times for me. The pressure and the politics of academia, it made me doubt the academic life I had ahead of me. That's when I decided to leave.' Karin worked a couple of years at TNO where she got familiar with project-related work, but the commercial side did not really fit her. She heard about this start-up company, Genmab, and decided to apply.

'Contrary to academia, and contrary to what many people think, selfishness and a competitive spirit often don't play a role in industry. Instead I receive a lot of support and freedom to develop my talents. Team-work and organisation skills are very important and so are project management skills. Now that I've left the politics and networking of academia behind, I finally feel like I'm fitting in.'

'Not knowing what you really want from your career, and having doubts about your future, these are very natural things', Karin says. 'Don't spent so much time focussing on your research, on your specialisation. Instead figure out for youself what you're good at, what you want from life. Finding a career that is fit for you, and finding out how to reach that goal, are mightily important realisations.'