Ask the Experts Interview Series

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Carol Fang

Carol Fang is an Intellectual Property (IP) strategist with a passion for science innovation and helping organisations realise value through well-crafted IP portfolios.  With decades of experience counseling multinational pharma companies, mid-size biotech companies and biotech start-ups in diverse areas of biotechnology, her areas of expertise include personalized healthcare, chimeric antigen receptor therapy, gene therapy, radioligand therapy, personalized healthcare, biologics manufacturing and digital healthcare platforms.  Carol comes from the Bay Area and is currently based in Basel, Switzerland.

Ask the Experts Interview Series

with Carol Fang

Tell us more about your current role at Novartis. 

I’m the Global Head of IP – Platforms which means I am an IP strategist who is a trusted advisor and thought partner to the business, focusing on innovations like engineered cell therapy and gene therapy, that can be applied across multiple disease areas.

Why did you decide to study law after a degree and postgraduate degree in science? 

Because I am crazy.  Just kidding.  Seriously, it’s because I believe in a multidisciplinary approach to learning and development, both professionally and personally.  Studying law gave me the opportunity to meld my fascination with science and law as a path to protecting innovation.

Can you give us a snapshot of how your career has evolved to date?

I had 6 great years in private practice at an intellectual property speciality law firm in San Francisco, then moved in-house to the patent department at Genentech which lead to global leadership roles at Hoffmann-La Roche AG and Novartis International AG.

What has been some highlights? 

A cross-divisional role at Genentech Inc., focusing on the intersection of biotechnology and diagnostics led to relocating with my family from San Francisco, CA to Basel, Switzerland for a global leadership role in the Patent Department at Hoffmann-La Roche AG focusing on personalized healthcare and digital healthcare platforms and, a few years later, taking on an even bigger global role developing the Intellectual Property strategy for cell therapy and gene therapy platform technology at Novartis International.

What drives you? 

Curiosity and the conviction that what I am doing brings value by fostering innovation.

What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

Balancing careers and parenthood; there are always trade offs and growth via failure is a certainty.

What is your view on failure? 

Failure is an opportunity to learn.  Never failing means never taking chances or experimenting.  Both those things have to happen for us to grow as people and professionals.

Who or what has shaped who you are? 

I always start with my family who inspired me to never giving up no matter the circumstances; we can always do more than we think we can.  I’ve also been fortunate to have incredible mentors throughout my career who supported me and pushed me to take on challenging projects that scared me because they seemed so difficult.   They saw creativity, strength and resilience in me that I did not always see in myself.

What are some differences working in the US versus Switzerland? 

Since 2007, I’ve worked for large, multinational organizations with locations all of the world so have had the fortune to work with a diversity of highly skilled professionals all over the world, regardless of the site where I’ve been based.  What I’ve found is that the culture of the organization itself is the main difference, rather than the geographic location.  There are so many ways to create an innovative culture.  It all starts with unleashing curiosity and enabling people to do their best work. 

Can you share a lesson you have learned? 

It’s always worth it to take a chance and try something that you haven’t before, whether it’s deciding to climb to the top of a Swiss Alp or move to another country or pursue a professional challenge that will push you past the limits of your knowledge and experience.

Any advice for startups when it comes to IP? 

Protecting IP should be a key priority for every startup.  A thoughtful IP strategy can capture the novel technical innovation for the startup and dramatically increase value and interest for investors in the early days and have a huge impact on valuation when the startup pursues their exit strategy.

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