Tore Christiansen

Networked his way to the top

Tore Christiansen ability to build and maintain a strong network in diabetes research is what this year landed him a top position in the field.

By Camilla Victoria Marcinkowski, journalist, MSA

 

Since 2004, when Tore Christiansen did his master thesis and, later, his PhD at the University of Aarhus, the trained physiotherapist has built an extensive network in the Danish diabetes community. Even when he failed to raise enough money for a post-doc position, the contacts he developed in academia helped his career in private industry.

 

This year, he landed a position as managing director of the Danish Diabetes Academy, an ambitious international research institution established by a DKK 200 million grant by the Novo Nordisk Foundation in cooperation with all Danish universities involved in diabetes research.

 

“I wouldn’t have been able to get this position had I not developed a strong network of doctors, nurses, and researchers in diabetes, both from my time as a researcher and, in particular, during my time in private industry,” Tore Christiansen says.

 

A passion for science
Since doing his master-thesis on biological markers for obesity and exercise, Tore Christiansen has had a passion for scientific research. Already then, he worked with the leading Danish researchers in the field. This continued as he did his PhD on the effects of exercise and diet on the metabolic syndrome.

 

“Working in academia, I think the informal part of the job is important. Meeting people and building relationships is a crucial skill, which for me has always been driven by my scientific curiosity,” he says.

 

The other side of the table
It wasn’t enough to secure a post-doc position, however. So in 2009, Tore Christiansen took a job as a centre administrator at Lundbeck, where he worked as an administrator and facilitator or cooperation between Lundbeck and hospital staff.

 

“I didn’t have a lot of administrative experience, and I missed the research community. So I decided to switch to a job as a medical liason at Eli-Lilly,” he says.

 

At Eli-Lilly, he was able to use his network of diabetes researchers – now working from the “other side” of the table. His job was to present diabetes research done by Eli-Lilly and others to physicians, nurses, and university researchers and, at the same time, report back to company about the challenges and interests of those he met.

 

Kept his scientific integrity
According to Tore Christiansen, the only way to be successful as a liason for a medical company is to uphold a strong scientific integrity. To him, this meant being open about the shortcomings of data, he presented, and to never “oversell” Eli-Lilly’s products. This integrity made it possible for him to keep the door open to leading diabetes researchers and doctors.

 

The bottom line, though, was branding. His meetings with physicians and researchers were to help make them see Eli-Lilly as a reliable company.

 

Tired of travelling
Tore Christiansen eventually tired of the extensive travels, the job entailed. So when he saw the opening at the Danish Diabetes Academy, he decided to apply.

 

“As a managing director, I need a multitude of skills, from scientific, to administrative and managerial. Most of all, I need to be able to cooperate with a broad group of people. This is where my years of networking play an important role,” he explains.

The main objective of the Academy is to build up a networking platform within diabetes research that will help enhance the quality of diabetes research in Denmark and abroad. This is done by sponsoring Phd-projects, post-docs, and professorships, and facilitating a stronger level of cooperation in diabetes research.

“The goal is to recruit 150 researchers within 5 years and helping them share knowledge. Today, Denmark is among the world’s leading countries when it comes to diabetes research. But if we don’t get researchers to cooperate more than they do today, we will eventually lag behind,” says Tore Christiansen.

As part of his job, he reads all the PhD-applications sent to the Academy. And his passion for research remains the same.

“I still publish articles based on my PhD-work. And who knows if I’ll be able to do research again some day,” he says.

 

CV: Tore Christiansen, b. 1969

  • Employment:
  • 2013-present: Managing Director, Danish Diabetes Academy
  • 2010-2013: Medical liason, diabetes, Eli-Lilly
  • 2009-2010: Centre administrator, Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Fast-track Hip and Knee Arthroplasty
  • 2006-2009: External teacher at the School of Physical Therapy, Aalborg, Aarhus
  • 2005: Research assistant, department of medicine and endocrinology, Aarhus University
  • 2004-2005: Teacher, School of physical therapy, Aalborg
  • Education:
  • 2006-2009: PhD-student, University of Aarhus, Faculty of Health
  • 2004: Master in Health Science (cand.scient.san), University of Aarhus
  • 1999: Physical therapist, School for physiotherapy, Holstebro