You gotta boogie to your best ability
By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen, published 15 March 2023
How did a self-proclaimed dyslectic with a dream of becoming a professional gymnast end up as a senior R&D manager in one of the world’s biggest life science companies? This Axl Neurauter explains, together with Thermo Fisher Norway’s approach to personal development, strategy, and innovation. And how ShareLab plays a key part.
Originally from Austria, Axl’s family moved to Tromsø when he was 3 years old. He took up gymnastics at a young age with a dream of becoming professional. And as it turned out, there was a seamless transition from gymnast to break dancer for Axl who with a friend has been credited for having "introduced hip hop to Tromsø" as a touring break dancing duo. “It was pretty fun. We actually earned a fair amount of money touring, and even had a manager”, he reminisces. However, it was his original love for gymnastics that led him to move to Oslo. The goal was to become a professional gymnast, but to make ends meet he also started studying at university. “Education was initially a side hustle” he explains, as receiving a student loan was an “easy way to get some money”.
See Battle Force and Axl dance on national TV in year 1984 here (link directly to 24 min, 5 sec).
We got business from day one
Axl focus did eventually shift to his studies. Following a bachelor in biochemistry, he states he “accidently ended up in immunology”. His masters project ended up directing his professional life where he worked on T cell dynamics in collaboration with Oslo University Hospital. “Straight out of my masters I got head-hunted by Dynal” Axl says, where he studied T-cell activation using beads coupled with antibodies. In context of Dynal, the beads were the key point. Dynal was a Norwegian company founded on the work done by Professor John Uglestad. Uglestad invented the process of making uniform polystyrene spherical beads which can be coupled to polymers such as DNA or proteins. Axl joined the product development team early, where he worked on products aimed at the research market. “We got business from day one”.
Today, Axl is responsible for a team which focuses on development of products for both the research market and regulatory market for Thermo Fisher Scientific Norway. What was Dynal is now a part of the global company, which sells “Dynabeads” in what has become a multibillion USD market. “We have recently been working a lot on RNA-vaccines”, Axl says, explaining how more widely utilising this technology could make for instance seasonal influenza vaccines more effective.
We are very expensive machines
As a manager, Axl emphasises the importance of getting the best out of each employee. “My job as a manager is to figure out how to make the most out of the potential that exist in each individual”. It is also important to understand that not everyone fit into the same box, Axl explains, and that to maximise the potential of your team they need to enjoy going to work. A central part of Thermo Fisher Norway’s strategy the past years has therefor been to climb the “great-place-to-work” ranking. “We are very expensive machines”, Axl expresses, and maintenance should be a top priority.
ShareLab is a good fit for Thermo
Another central part of Thermo’s company culture and strategy is testing new concepts and out-sourcing some of the work associated to development. “Norwegian Thermo has proved to be competitive” Axl explains, adding that the Norwegian department is therefore granted substantial funds for investment and improvements. Out-sourcing is a way of reducing risk for us, Axl explains. This is where ShareLab enters the scene. Thermo has cooperated with ShareLab since 2018. “ShareLab is a good fit for Thermo”, Axl says. Initiating new collaborations is quite demanding due to the legal aspect of the process, and Axl explains that instead of finding 20 different partners ShareLab is a structure which can get the job done and has the network to find a third party to complement their competence. “This takes away a lot of the work associated with collaborations”. In essence the collaboration with ShareLab allow Thermo Fisher Norway to grow faster than would otherwise be possible. “And it also makes us visible in the network which ShareLab touches”.
About Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (NYSE: TMO) is the world leader in serving science, with annual revenue of approximately $40 billion. The company's mission is to enable customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Whether customers are accelerating life sciences research, solving complex analytical challenges, increasing productivity in their laboratories, improving patient health through diagnostics or the development and manufacture of life-changing therapies, Thermo Fisher are there to support them. The global team delivers an unrivaled combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and pharmaceutical services through industry-leading brands, including Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific, Unity Lab Services, Patheon and PPD.
ShareLab is a lab incubator with fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and will reinvest funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to fuel life science.
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