Eurovision star’s ‘sliding door’ moment

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In People
  • 3 years ago
Biointelect's Danica Prodanovic as Eurovision star Nina.

27 August 2021

It’s only been 10 years but seems like a world away for Biointelect consultant Dr Danica Prodanović, who in 2011 was one of the most famous people in her home country of Serbia.

Already a child star having won a Serbian national singing contest at 17, Prodanović was chosen by well-known local composer Kristina Kovač to sing her song Čaroban in the Eurovision song contest of 2011.

The retro sixties-style song marked a big change from the traditional entry the country usually opted for but, after winning the local contest and being nominated as Serbia’s entry, Prodanović and Kovač decided the song would be sung in Serbian – with Danica performing under her stage name of Nina.

Instantly a hit with Eurovision’s extensive audience, ‘Nina’ and her team raced through the Semi-Finals to secure a coveted place in the Grand Final, where she finished a highly credible 14th (top five in Australia, at that stage not a competitor in Eurovision but able to vote).

Success opened the door for Prodanović to pursue a career in music as contracts streamed in from big-name production houses. While she was sorely tempted to step through that door, music shared her heart with another great love that she just couldn’t leave behind – science.

“Since I was very, very little I had these two big passions,” she tells MedNews. “I started playing the piano and singing when I was five years old but when I started school, I fell in love with biology, chemistry and life sciences.

“I went to two schools in parallel; music school and the regular primary elementary school.  Then it was high school and music school – I could never decide. I always wanted to have these two things, and I was good at balancing both.”

When it came to selecting a university course, Prodanović had to decide which of her passions she would pursue as a career. She chose to study pharmacy thinking she could sing and write songs as a side interest.

It was in her third year of university, aged 21, when the opportunity to compete first in the Serbian national song contest ‘Beovizija’ and then in Eurovision was put to her by Kovač – an opportunity she jumped at, temporarily abandoning her studies to focus on the contest. But when it was over, Prodanović was eager to return to university and complete her pharmacy studies.

Biointelect’s multi-talented Dr Danica Prodanović

“I put my music career on hold thinking I could come back to it but it didn’t want to wait for me,” she says. “Maybe it was a missed opportunity but I don’t think of it that way, to be honest. I have no regrets.”

Science opens new doors

Having chosen science over music, Prodanović decided to pursue a PhD in molecular biology or pharmacology. Her boyfriend wanted to pursue a PhD in civil engineering and suggested they both apply for scholarships to Australia, which they did, with him securing a place at Monash University and Prodanović a place at the University of Melbourne.

The couple arrived in 2014 and spent the next four years attaining their doctorates, but Prodanović knew she wanted to explore job options beyond research and lab-based work. While her now-husband decided to pursue a career in academia, Prodanović’s supervisor suggested she do an internship with Biointelect as the university has a relationship with the Sydney-based consultancy through its Australian APRIntern program.

Prodanović has moved quickly through its ranks since joining the high-powered consultancy in 2018. Now a consultant managing projects and clients, she described it as “a very nice ride”.

“I like the consulting work and love the team,” Prodanović says. “I love being close to Jenny [Herz] and seeing how much she can actually do, not just for pharmaceutical and biotech companies but also in helping universities commercialise new technologies and get them across the line.

“I do a lot of different things, as you can imagine. Sometimes it’s very early stages of technology development, helping groups find a straight-line pathway to market. Sometimes it’s pharmaceutical companies wanting to bring a new product to market and we help them with the strategy, engagement with external stakeholders, the launch. It is just an exciting thing to be part of.”

The merging of two passions

The Prodanovićs moved to Sydney four years ago and are now parents to a two-year-old boy with another son on the way. They recently became Australian citizens and music continues to be a big part of their life.

“My husband plays the guitar and I play the piano,” Prodanović says. ” Our son loves the piano, or at least he loves the buttons. He also loves dancing to music.

“I still compose songs and release new songs around once a year on my YouTube channel, NINAmusic. Luckily, my husband loves videography and photography so he does the videos. I have a small home studio here in Sydney where I record and a team and a producer in Belgrade who help mix all the songs. That’s how I work.”

Asked if she may one day try and re-open that door she walked away from a decade ago to pursue her lost musical career, Prodanović will “never say never” but, with a young family to provide for, music is unlikely to offer the same financial stability as science.

“If something comes up, I will try and do both but I know it’s going to be a bit more difficult now with kids,” she says. “There’s also a new generation now and a different kind of music is listened to in Serbia. I like the retro-pop sound. I still have followers and fans and, to be honest, if I can find a single person that enjoys my songs then I’m happy.

“When I moved to Australia, quite a few people contacted me saying they couldn’t believe I was in Australia and how they loved Eurovision. I did perform at a couple of events in Melbourne and at the ARCS conference a few years ago as well.”

While the local industry is fortunate Prodanović both decided to pursue science and that this led her to work in Australia, it is also well worth taking the time to listen to her music. It reveals an extraordinary talent and a voice that deserves its place in Eurovision folklore.

“Telling people ‘I’m a singer and I went to Eurovision’ is not the first thing I would say to people who work in pharma but there are quite a few people secretly doing cool stuff on the side,” Prodanović says, humbly adding, “I’m just one of them.”

©MedNews 2021

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