Kathrin Jansen, a female leader in a man’s world

After introducing you to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, I would like to continue our journey today by introducing to you another female leader worthy of our attention and admiration. Her name is Kathrin Jansen; She is the Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development (VRD) at Pfizer Inc.

She has overall 28 years of pharmaceutical experience in the field of Vaccine R&D and is the leader of a global vaccines research and development organisation. Kathrin along with her trusted team were able to establish and provide a great contribution to the global community, at a time where the world was struck by the pandemic of CoVid-19.


What made her what she is today?

Let us get to know her in depth by addressing her early life, education and career.

Kathrin Jansen was born in Erfurt (Germany) in 1958. As a child, she was frequently ill and suffered several throat infections. She received medical treatment from her father, which inspired her to pursue a career in the field of drug development.

She lived in East Germany and fled to West Germany in 1961. To transport her across the border uninterrupted, her aunt pretended to be her mother.

She studied biology at the University of Marburg and completed her doctoral degree there, studying chemical pathways in bacteria.

After a series of research experiences and studies in various places, Jansen moved to the USA and joined the vaccine division at Merck & Co. where she started working on the human papillomavirus infection. In 2002, the vaccine was declared 100% effective.

Furthermore, in 2004 she was appointed chief scientific officer at VaxGen and in 2006, she was responsible for vaccine discovery at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. In 2010, she became adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania and in addition to this she has authored and co-authored over 190 publications. She is part of the CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) which is a scientific advisory committee a part of the American Society for Microbiology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.


Finally, her most notable achievement of late was during the current CoVid-19 pandemic, where Jansen oversaw the development of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which resulted in a success. 

Her continued work is remarkable; considering the fact that she seemed to always be engaged in difficult tasks which held an expected low rate of success. However Kathrin can claim a stellar curriculum made of successes as she conquered all odds put against her. 

A Notable quote from Kathrin Jansen during a conference stated that “As scientists, it is our obligation to rectify misinformation and to provide the facts on what we know and what we don’t know”.  which is astounding as it shows her commitment and courage. Both these characteristics can and should be of inspiration to us all, her story is a reminder of how valuable for the whole of humanity, the dedication of a single individual can be.

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