Mandy works as a regulatory toxicologist

Name: Mandy Tang
Based: Stockholm, Sweden
Current role: Regulatory Toxicologist at Swedish Match
Year of graduation: 2016

What did you study as an undergraduate (bachelor)?

Biomedicine programme at Karolinska institutet

Why did you choose the Master programme in Toxicology?

After my bachelor degree I did not know if I wanted to continue within the academia or start working in the industry so I chose the master programme in toxicology since I wanted both options after my degree. I was also very interested in broadening my knowledge within toxicology since it can be applied in many aspects in the industry and since I think it is a very interesting topic that everyone can relate to. I wanted to know what happens when you take a painkiller, what happens if you drink too much alcohol or how long-time exposure to some chemicals could affect you and how that is related to your daily life. The master programme in toxicology gave me knowledge in a detailed and informative way.

Where did you conduct your MSc thesis and what was it about?

I did my MSc thesis in Swetox about how prenatal bisphenol A exposure could lead to epigenetic alterations in genes that have been seen to be altered during different kind of mental illness/conditions.

Looking back on your time at KI and the Master programme in Toxicology, what is the most valuable thing that you learned?

- That toxicology is very broad and can be applied everywhere.
- The complexity of chemical to chemical interaction.
- The molecular details about the chemical interaction with our body.
- The knowledge about risk and hazard thinking and the differences.

Where are you and what are you doing now?

After my graduation I worked as a consultant within the toxicology and chemistry field for almost two years. This was rewarding since I got to practice toxicology in a different way, mostly I worked with many different projects where I helped companies within the cosmetic and chemical industry to comply with the EU regulations. Thereafter, I continued my career as a Regulatory Affairs & Quality Assurance in a company that develops and produces cosmetic and technical products, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. My main focus lied on the compliance to the different standards and regulations that are associated with the products we produced, including supporting the organization to achieve quality, traceability and transparency.

Today I am working as a Regulatory Toxicologist at Swedish Match in Stockholm. In my daily work, I evaluate ingredients that we are using in our products in a toxicological way but also so the ingredients are in compliance with the regulations that affect our products. I also support the organization during applications (e.g. FDA in the U.S), to new and existing markets, by performing quantitative risk assessments and calculations of acceptable use. In my role as a Regulatory Toxicologist, I am working closely with the product developers but also with the whole organization in all levels since I am involved from the start when an idea is born until the final product is on the store shelf.

What made you decide on this career?

Toxicology can be applied everywhere and is usually considered in the industry. In my opinion, toxicology can always be applied in all of the steps in a product's life cycle. Even if toxicology feels like a narrow field within the chemical world, I see and think about it all the time both in my private life and as a toxicologist at work. I really enjoy my current career since it is an interesting and growing field, consumers today are well prepared and they are interested in knowing that the companies are complying to regulations and that they are holding safe products in their hands that have been qualified to be on the market. I am currently working with tobacco and novel nicotine products (snus and tobacco free nicotine pouches), but I actually had a hard time accepting this job offer in the beginning due to the fact that we learned that everything that is not good for our body or environment should be removed or not accepted. But after some time of thinking, I realized that if a company is hiring a toxicologist it must mean that they care and want to do right according to the regulations.

In addition, I think that we need to start thinking about “risk vs. hazard” which are different from each other. I think that there is a lack of knowledge about risk and hazard in the society, a lot of products (in all product types) are "banned" by consumers because of what is reported in the media and lack of knowledge of what is considered as "toxic". Instead, I want to spread the right kind of knowledge and the importance of knowing the difference between risk and hazard. Snus and tobacco free nicotine pouches are indeed very interesting and fun products to work with due to the history of snus but it is also a very traditional product of Sweden that is modernized. The vision of Swedish Match is a world without cigarettes. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of cancer due to the combustion of tobacco and it is not only affecting the smoker but also people around, so-called second-hand smoking. Therefore I made the decision to work with Swedish Match, a company that I am actually proud to be a part of.