Ellen van der Aar

‘Challenges are there to be solved’

Ellen van der Aar, Head of Development (photo)
Ellen van der Aar 

Head of Development

As Head of Development and Project Leader, Ellen van der Aar is responsible for clinical stage treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and osteoarthritis. She often finds her work pushes her limits – but sees the benefit in this.

‘If you had asked me five years ago, I would never have expected I would be doing this. I’ve moved far away from my own background to do things I’ve never done before. It’s challenging in a good way. I’m constantly learning new things.’

Broad horizons

‘When I started at Galapagos, it was in Research and one of the projects I was working on was in IPF. The therapy moved to Development and I moved with it; it’s very different work. IPF is an orphan disease and I had developed a rapport with the few people specializing in it. Now, I’m leading the project. Different skills again, but they meet my interests.’

Pushing the limits

‘I want to learn. And challenges are there to be solved. It means working longer hours than I might like, but even so, my investigations still barely scratch the surface. There’s so much more I want to learn, more depth I would like to go to in my work to further my understanding. Galapagos appreciates this situation; they’re hiring extra staff.’

If you had asked me five years ago, I would never have expected I would be doing this.


‘They push me more than anything. We have setbacks – they’re inevitable – and still strive to meet deadlines. It’s a commitment to the patients and our shareholders. If we consider changing our approach, the management team responds very quickly. Thankfully! In big pharma companies, you might have to wait weeks for an answer.’

Is the grass greener?

‘There’s significant stress. There are always deadlines. There are unexpected events that require us to step up and go the extra mile. But despite this, the positives make it all worthwhile. I wouldn’t want to give it up.’