Chapter 16: Professor Jesper Wengel
“Jesper Wengel has done what few others have succeeded in doing, namely, to have great success in both basic science and applied contexts. For him, it’s due to a mixture of luck and skill.”
“You have to have a sense of what can solve a problem and you have to be lucky. A field of research moves in one direction, and one relies on the discoveries that have been made along the way. So it’s something about taking your work in the right direction at the right time. In my Ph.D. I was working on changing the ribose part (a sugar group) on DNA, at that time with a different purpose. I picked up this research area because I felt that in this area I could do something that could differentiate me in Denmark. So it was a mixture of craftsmanship, hard work, intuition and luck. I think the latter is very important in this field.”
But luck, as you know, is not enough in itself. The timing has to be right, and it’s absolutely crucial to hire the right people who can make things work. Jesper Wengel, along with both Danish and Indian students and post-docs from a collaboration with the University of Delhi, has had the touch that was needed to make the chemistry work. In addition to international cooperation, he also highlights interdisciplinary collaborative projects as crucial for the development of the field.
“My field has evolved enormously over the last 20 years and is becoming more and more connected to biology. I thought then that now that Santaris and Exiqon have the LNA technology we were going to do something else because they or their licensees would take care of further developing it. But they don’t – they’re focused on a sub-goal that they’re going for. Therefore, I have now gone back and continue to work on it myself and I try to work more closely with biologists. Today, there is a much higher degree of interdisciplinarity than 20 years ago, and this is very crucial. What moves something is when biologists and chemists understand each other’s challenges and opportunities and can talk to each other.”
You can read the full portrait of Professor Jesper Wengel by downloading the chapter below. (In Danish).