January / February 2018

Meet Young Professional - Lise Heyninck

Mike McGrath

They say that ongoing growth is the key to a fulfilling career. If that holds true, young professional Lise Heyninck of Belgium has the mindset and drive to build a long and successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Lise Heyninck
Lise Heyninck

Born and raised in Sint Niklaas, a city of 75,000 located between Antwerp and Ghent, Heyninck is a Validation Project Lead for Novartis, a leading pharma company. She began her undergraduate studies in bioscience engineering at Ghent University in 2008, followed by a master of science in bioscience engineering, chemistry and bioprocess technology.

During her first year of graduate studies in 2011, she participated in an exchange program at Kansas State University in the United States. “That was quite an experience for me,” says Heyninck. “I learned a lot and I was also there by myself, which was hard because I started without knowing anybody. It was good to see that I was quite independent and could do that on my own. I was so proud.”


She returned to Belgium in December 2011; the difference in exam periods between the two countries, had given her some free time before the next semester. She took an internship at Genencor International Belgium, a biotech company.

“It was my first experience in the industry, and I got to experience what it is like to work at a company,” she says. “I was a process engineer and I really liked that I could think about the processes, perform the tests myself, and then work through problems that were triggered.”

After completing her master’s degree in the spring 2013, Heyninck almost immediately found her first real industry job as a process validation engineer at Novartis. There, she explains, process validation engineers not only devise the testing schemes to ensure products meet their requirements, but perform the tests and write the subsequent reports as well. “That is an asset because you go everywhere in the factory,” she says. “There is a lot of interaction with all departments, so I really learned a lot.”

She held that position until May 2016, when she was appointed as an interim project and validation team leader. In November 2016 she was appointed to her current position as Validation Project Lead, where she manages a variety of projects within the validation department.


In 2014 Heyninck was introduced to ISPE by a manager at Alcon who was also a former board member at ISPE’s Belgium Affiliate. “He heard that the Affiliate was looking for Young Professionals to start up the ISPE YP initiative in Belgium, and he asked me and another colleague to join,” she explains. “I was very enthusiastic about it because I think ISPE is a great opportunity to learn about the industry and to meet new people, so I said yes and got involved.”

Her involvement has been active. She was appointed Chair of the YP Committee in July 2015. “So far, it has been difficult, because we really had to start from nothing,” she says. “We were just a group of YPs coming together and it was hard to find a common interest and to know which direction we would go. One of the first things I did was to bring some structure into the group by creating different working groups and set the dates of our committee meetings for the next year.”

Today, the YP Committee has grown to 16 people out of the 20–25 YP members of the Belgian Affiliate. The committee organized its first event in June 2016, with attendance exceeding 80 people. “We didn’t limit it to ISPE members; we kept it open to all young professionals in the industry. We hope that by organizing more events like this, they will see the added value of becoming an ISPE member.”


Heyninck acknowledges that the Affiliate has not yet reached out to the student community, but sees that as a future goal. “We are still starting up with the young professionals, so we first want to reach the ones who are already in the industry and then we can target universities students.”

For her own career, Heyninck’s ambitions are predicated on her quest for ongoing growth. “For me, it is important to keep learning,” she says. “When I am in a position where I don’t learn anything new, that is not good. I have the ambition to go higher, to become a team leader or a manager. But before I can do that, I still have a lot to learn about the different divisions and departments.”