In this article, we shine the spotlight on Ricarda, a consultant at NDA, and learn how she took the plunge into regulatory affairs.
Taking the plunge
A famous quote goes thus: “the only constant thing in life is change.” However, life does not teach us how to adapt to its constant changes. For Ricarda Meincke, consultant at NDA, she learnt adaptability and flexibility through her quest to understand the world around her. This led her on a series of adventures across different countries and continents.
Although originally from Hamburg, Germany, Ricarda’s journey began in Arizona, where she completed high school and college. Because of her love for science, she moved to Hawaii to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, and afterwards, a master’s degree in pharmacy. The decision to switch from biochemistry to pharmacy was inspired by her physiology professor.
“I had a really amazing physiology professor in Hawaii, who sometimes would start talking all things pharmacology. And I realised that this is what I wanted to pursue. So, from there, it just made sense that if I was interested in pharmacology, I should pursue pharmacy.”
While studying, she got interested in pharmacovigilance and did a six-month internship at a hospital in Zurich followed by a six-month internship in New Zealand. Ricarda’s plan was to move to Australia after graduation to get her pharmacy licence, but some months after she graduated, she reconnected with a Swissmedic employee she had met during her time in Zurich. “He said they did not have any open positions in the PV department, but there was a temporary position open for ten months in regulatory,” she recounted.
When plans change
Since Ricarda was already planning on moving to Australia, she decided it would not hurt to move to Switzerland for ten months first and then leave for Australia. However, as a result of her diligence and hard work, after about five months, the company offered her a permanent position. “I had already made some friends,” she said, “and I really enjoyed the work, so I figured that I'd just stay a bit longer, and then I ended up staying for six years. I realized that I enjoyed working in regulatory affairs.”
Her job working in the regulatory department, involved regulatory assessments, managing systematic submissions, working with other departments, hosting meetings with applicants, and managing a full MMA submissions and variations. During her first year of working at Swiss Medic, Ricarda got involved in international projects that required travelling and networking with other regulators in Singapore, Canberra, and Brasilia. She also got involved in FDA Project Orbis and the Access Consortium, where she got to work with other agencies. She described her colleagues as inspiring and “trying to make a difference in terms of patient care and getting products to market, especially regions that are not first-wave agencies”.
Notwithstanding, Ricarda’s journey into Regulatory affairs was not all rosy. While working on these big projects, she had to deal with limited resources and short timelines. Thankfully, she had a mentor that she could look up to, but she also allowed her passion to shine through.
“I feel like if you do something that you're passionate about, you enjoy it. So it wasn't that big of a deal. Also, I have fun at work when I am learning.”
Ricarda agrees that the challenges she faced made the experience super interesting. More so, since the job was quite flexible, it gave her a great level of work-life balance.
In February 2022, Ricarda joined NDA as a consultant because she wanted to see what the other side of regulatory affairs looked like. As a consultant, she applies her skills to help clients with their drug registration strategy. By doing so, she gets more responsibility, gains exposure, and is grateful to be part of a team that is bringing new products to a market that has high medical need. According to her, “That’s obviously something that gives me joy with my work.”
Reflections and Forecasting
In hindsight, what Ricarda considers the most important lesson from her early career experiences is that you will never feel ready to do anything, but you should just do it anyway! She also learnt that it is okay to ask for help because nobody has all the answers. Her advice to people just starting their career is:
“There will be times when you think that you are not the most experienced person to do the job, but you'll figure it out. Trust your abilities and always ask for help!”