Interview with Dr. Christina Mertens, Head of Global Drug Discovery Parasiticides at Bayer HealthCare Animal Health:
What do you do?
In simple words, I’m responsible for filling the global pipeline with new antiparasitic medicines. Sounds easy but medicines are not simply picked from a shelf in a library, but actually need to be discovered. Drug Discovery is about screening large compound libraries to identify biologically active compounds and optimizing such lead compounds for intended use. Ultimately, this delivers a drug candidate, which should have the desired properties in terms of potency, spectrum, pharmacokinetic properties and safety.
My department, Global Drug Discovery Parasiticides, strongly benefits from Bayer’s integrated life sciences approach as we pursue parasite-specific screening in close collaboration with Bayer CropScience (BCS) and Bayer HealthCare (BHC) Pharma. Our screening campaigns have already delivered a number of novel chemical classes with activity against ectoparasites, heartworm and gastro-intestinal worms. Together with our chemists, toxicologists and pharmacokinetic experts, we optimize these novel chemical classes for our customer needs.
A day for Christina Mertens
Every day brings different tasks. Of course there are certain routine meetings related to our research processes and managerial work. A substantial part of my work goes into aligning with our teams, related research disciplines and interfaces with Development, Business Development & Licensing, Marketing, as well as relevant functions at BCS and BHC Pharma, and external partners. To be successful we need to be well aligned on what we do (or don’t do), focus on our goals, and move our processes fast and efficiently.
How did you get to Animal Health?
I started my professional career as veterinarian in academic parasitology. But my interest in need-driven and output-oriented research drove me into the animal health industry back in 1998. I joined Bayer in 2009 as an Early Project Manager after serving the animal health industry in various R&D(research and development)-related functions and in business licensing. It was Bayer’s strong corporate identity and commitment to sustainable innovation, particularly the commitment to New Molecular Entity (NME) research at Bayer HealthCare Animal Health (BHC AH), which strongly appealed to me. It still motivates me today. The opportunity to contribute to building the NME research strategy and processes at BHC AH broadened my perspective and has been a very rewarding experience.
What do you like about working in Animal Health?
I enjoy the informal, almost familial, working style at Bayer HealthCare Animal Health. BHC AH facilitates work across different functions and entrepreneurial thinking at all levels. At BHC AH, it is easy to assume tasks and responsibilities outside of one’s job description and comfort zone. In other words, it’s a great place to broaden perspective and to develop. I highly appreciate the possibility to leverage cross-divisional synergies with BCS and BHC Pharma, which is an unprecedented asset in delivering NME-based parasiticides.
Science for a Better Life
Drug discovery directly translates into Science for a Better Life since the NME-based products will bring innovation to the market that will make a difference to the costumer. But Science to a Better Life at Bayer means even more to me. For example, we participate in a cross divisional Bayer initiative, called Nimbus, that facilitates scientific collaboration. We explore shared targets, and we can find solutions that improve human, animal, and plant health. Our Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) collaboration is a great example of how Bayer HealthCare Animal Health science can benefit humans. This is the Bayer difference and where we are unique compared to other firms.
Do you have a pet?
I have a 24-year old warm-blooded horse named Graffiti. He’s still quite fit and is a patient buddy for my son during his first horse-back lectures. He is currently in group housing in a herd of twelve horses on a huge paddock with adjacent pastures. In his old age, you can find him enjoying life–still playing with his horse-fellows and being deeply relaxed. In the winter season, he looks more like a de-horned, wooly yak rather than a horse, but he’s gorgeous.
This post is also available in: German