Former STAR PhD Fellow

Rahul Kapur
Current position: Head of Medical Affairs

As a STAR fellow with Novo Nordisk, I have been able to fulfil my lifelong dream to do cutting-edge scientific research that might one day lead to better care for people with diabetes

Dreaming of research

I have a background as a medical doctor from the St Johns Medical College in Bangalore, India. All through medical college and my internship I have wanted to do research into the medical problems which plague our modern society, so that I can do the most good and help more people.

I moved to Denmark to work with Professor Oluf Pedersen at the Steno Diabetes Centre on a short-term project in diabetes genetics. When I heard about the Industrial PhD programme at Novo Nordisk, I realised that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to pursue my interests in both the pharmaceutical industry and more applied diabetes research.  As a medical doctor, it is very important for me to know that my research can impact directly on the development of better treatments for people with diabetes.

I still remember the feeling I had when my STAR fellowship application was approved by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. It was simply thrilling to have this opportunity to pursue my research interests in diabetes while also working at Novo Nordisk and learning firsthand how pharmaceutical drug development works.

Looking for a cure

My PhD project is on regenerative medicine - specifically the regeneration of beta cells in the pancreas. The Industrial PhD programme is designed so that you split your time between industry and academia so my work is being supervised by Senior Scientist Scott Heller at Novo Nordisk and Professor Jens H Nielsen at Copenhagen University.

Currently there is a lot of buzz about beta cell regeneration. One of the important features of diabetes is the reduction in the number of beta cells (which produce insulin) and we believe that by introducing the right factors we could stimulate these cells to regenerate, thus reducing or removing the need for daily insulin injections for people with diabetes.

Studying in industry

The fact that the Industrial PhD programme at Novo Nordisk takes three years was a big selling point for me, even though it means it is more challenging than doing a 4 or 5 year PhD at a university. By doing an Industrial PhD, I believe that it will be easier for me to make the full transition from the lab to a company setting. As for my relationship to Novo Nordisk, well, I can certainly see that it is a great place to work with research centres all over the world, state of the art facilities and inspiring international colleagues. Novo Nordisk is not a place that I would choose to leave if I didn’t have to. I am confident, however, that my experience from the STAR programme will help me to figure out the next step in my professional career

So this is where I currently am - in the second year of my PhD, in cold Denmark (at least cold for a boy from the tropics!) pursuing both a PhD and a way to improve the lives of millions of people who are suffering from diabetes. And believe me when I tell you this is the best time I have ever had.

Talent in Novo Nordisk

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Chief Science Officer at Novo Nordisk, talks about the need to attract the best scientific talent from around the world.

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