Head of R&D BioProcess, GE Healthcare
Christel Fenge is no stranger to science. As the new leader of the bioprocess research and development (R&D) organization, Christel leads a team in the development of new products and services in biomanufacturing. Her work—requiring the perfect mix of leadership, a strong science foundation, and business savvy – helps to provide biopharmaceutical organizations with the latest and greatest in scientific technologies to help them deliver therapies to patients worldwide.
Christel’s career path grew out of her early interest in chemistry, biology, math and physics. As an undergraduate student she was drawn to the field of biotechnology because she saw the vast potential for the science to find treatments and cures for difficult-to-treat diseases. Christel ultimately pursued a doctorate in Biotechnology from Leibniz University in Hannover and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before joining GE Healthcare Life Sciences.
Christel can reflect on many professional achievements with a sense of accomplishment and pride, and is quick to acknowledge the role of teams in achieving progress in life sciences. She started her career at KabiPharmacia, working on recombinant factor VIII development for the treatment of hemophiliacs. During her time at AstraZeneca, she built and led a bioprocess development team that delivered on many projects, including obtaining GMP certification for their clinical trials manufacturing facility.
Her team was transformed into a contract development organization under new ownership. Bringing with her all of the knowledge and expertise she had gained from her time ‘behind the bench,’ Christel transitioned to working on the technology supplier side of the industry, where she used her understanding of biopharma and the challenges the industry face to lead her team to doubling their business.
Looking forward, Christel sees increased process understanding and control enabled by digitalization as a key to making biologics more affordable. She compares this effort to industrial biotechnology, where process analytical technologies and digitalization have helped to reduce costs by continuously optimizing processes as well as automating manually-intensive tasks.
Her ultimate vision is to bring that same type of automation and continuous process improvement enabled by digital solutions to biomanufacturing processes, whether it be the core manufacturing process or associated quality procedures. Through this increased process understanding and control, she says, we can help biotech and biopharma companies manage variability and drive out costs.
To young people exploring career opportunities, Christel offers this advice: Follow your heart and your interests. Passion for what you do is the most important.