Daniella Kranjac (’99) has been in the workforce only about a dozen years, but she has already accomplished more than many do in a lifetime. The Montclair, N.J. native has helped create a novel biologic technology, grown a start-up company into a major market player, positioned the company for strategic acquisition, and transitioned into a leadership role in a multinational organization.
For her many successes, Kranjac credits the Cooperative Education (Co-op) program at Stevens.
“Co-op gave me my career start. I have a lot to thank them for,” she said.
Kranjac came to Stevens after attending the ECOES summer program during high school, which solidified her interest in engineering and biological systems. She kept extremely busy during her years in the co-op program. While working at Cytec and Schering-Plough Research Institute, the Chemical Engineering major participated in Castle Point Radio and women’s cross country, and also dated her future husband, Stevens alum Richard Ferraro (’98).
But, in her senior year, when the opportunity arose to add “entrepreneur” to her list of activities, she didn’t hesitate.
Through her co-op internship at Schering-Plough, Kranjac had worked closely with the inventor of a new technology for the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals like antibodies and vaccines. The invention replaced traditional stainless steel tanks and piping with a disposable, single-use bioreactor system, thereby helping to lower costs, eliminating the need for cleaning and validating between batches and potentially reducing time to market.
“It really gave rise to a paradigm shift in the industry,” Kranjac said. “Since then, a majority of biopharma companies have begun to use these single-use technologies in one form or another.”
Interested in commercializing the technology, the inventor founded Wave Biotech LLC out of his garage in 1998. Kranjac, who had worked on the prototype system during her internship, signed on at the start to lead the sales and marketing effort – out of her Stevens residence hall room.
“For me to go to work at a start-up was totally unexpected, but I had seen firsthand that this technology really worked and could make an impact,” Kranjac said. “It was amazing timing, a lot of hard work and sacrifices, and a bit of luck that arose from one of my last co-op assignments.”
Knowing the low success rates of entrepreneurial ventures, Kranjac found few supporters in her decision. But on her side was then-Chemical Engineering Professor George Delancey.
“He was one of very few who encouraged me to do it, and to take the risk,” she said.
Kranjac served as Director of Global Sales and Marketing and later Vice President of Wave Biotech LLC, rapidly advancing the company’s market share, and establishing operations in Europe. In 2006, seven years into the venture, it had grown into a $25 million breakthrough life sciences company with sales and marketing operations in New Jersey and Europe.
At that time, because of its growing size and scope, Wave sought to secure a strategic partner. “We immediately thought of GE Healthcare as the ideal partner since our product lines were highly complementary to the GE portfolio,” Kranjac said.
Kranjac oversaw the sale of Wave Biotech to GE Healthcare, which had enormous global presence, highly complementary product lines and immense depth and breadth of knowledge in the processing of bio pharmaceuticals.
Kranjac led the commercial, business strategy and marketing efforts during integration, and her career took off from there. Today, she is Business Development Director of Enterprise Solutions at GE Healthcare Life Sciences, where she is part of a team that aims to help countries worldwide, especially the emerging nations, develop their own in-country manufacturing capabilities for essential biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines and insulin. The products she helped develop have become an integral part of GE's strategy in the space.
Kranjac – who also earned an Executive MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business – said she still uses the skills she learned in her classes at Stevens and in the co-op program in her everyday work.
“It goes without saying that the challenging Stevens curriculum will provide you with the tools needed for the engineering workplace, but perhaps the most relevant skills I’ve taken from Stevens are the ability to methodically address challenging problems, ranging from product marketing to sales or engineering to staffing, with clear thinking and analytic approach,” she said.
She also said the university’s support of female students gave her the confidence to pursue her career goals.
“Stevens was extremely supportive of female students, and when I was getting into the workforce I found that gender really didn’t matter,” she said.
Kranjac is anxious to return the favor.
“I’d love to help Stevens develop students so they are equipped for the fast-moving global world of today’s business. Today’s graduates need to have a deep understanding and appreciation of the intersection of engineering innovation and business” she said. “Learning these skills and applying them in a global market is the name of the game now.”