Why the Life Sciences Industry Keeps Me Young

At Heart Anyway!

By: Frank Corden, Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions, New England Controls

It’s been a whirl wind year.  Since my last blog entry for the BioProcess International (BPI) Conference last October, I’ve had the pleasure of bringing four young engineers and scientists into our group, some with extensive life science experience and others not so much.  Regardless of their backgrounds, each of these folks is young, really smart, and VERY enthusiastic.  As I was sitting on another transatlantic flight (seems like I’m always on a flight these days), I was thinking about youth and enthusiasm and it occurred to me, that one of the reasons I still enjoy working in life sciences is that we are a young industry. Let me explain…

In a previous life, I did environmental work and had the opportunity to work in many plants across multiple industries. One project that comes to mind, involved looking at waste contamination from a carbonated beverage manufacturer.  This particular plant had been in operation since about World War I, and in one case the production line had been running the same process continually (24/7) with no breaks for several decades.  The process at the site hasn’t changed for over a century, because there’s no reason to.   Process stability and consistency applies to many aspects of industries where scientists and engineers could choose to work; mining, chemicals, petrochemicals, and others.

Contrast that stability with our industry [life sciences] and the differences are stark.  I think of some of the major events I’ve either participated in or have been aware of in the last year and the rate of change in our industry is blazingly fast.  And it’s fast across all aspects of the industry.  From the discovery of promising binding domains on the cancer drug target KRas, through the announcement of Alnylam’s full scale plant to manufacture its RNA based therapies to the projected launch of the biosimilar products to be manufactured at the next generation Amgen manufacturing site in Singapore (which we heard about at BPI last year), biotech engineers and scientists continue to solve the hard problems in all facets of the business.

If you look into the history of the research on KRas, it says a great deal about how we collectively approach our work.  The search for suitable binding sites on this common cancer related enzyme has been underway for decades.  Many a researcher has worked on KRas for years with minimal success. But regardless of the previous successes (or lack thereof) and the recognized difficulty, scientists continued to pick up the baton from their predecessors with the firm belief that not only was the problem solvable, but the problem continued to be important enough to commit time and resources to.  It’s this underlying commitment to understand what may be one of the most complex systems in the universe, a living being, and a belief that an understanding is possible, that are hallmarks of life science scientists and engineers and what keeps me coming back to work day after day.

When I think about my mentors, peers and coworkers both inside New England Controls and at our customers, these individuals are consistently really smart and passionate people who are young, or in my case at least, young at heart.  Without that youthful thinking, embracing change, and can-do attitude, drug targets like KRas aren’t understood, new treatments like RNA therapeutics  and new manufacturing approaches that are faster, smaller, more productive and more efficient don’t happen.  And none of this happens without all of these smart people staying up to date on the latest best practices, breakthroughs, and cutting edge research.

Supporting that commitment to solve the hard problems, improve effectiveness and efficiency are a cadre of organizations developing instrumentation, tools, techniques, processes and equipment to enable the industry to progress across all aspects from discovery through delivery of the therapies to our collective customers.  Attending BPI is a great way to stay informed and collaborate with colleagues on the range of new development that will enable each of us to fulfill our roles to move the science and technology forward at the blazingly fast pace that I’ve seen this past year and that I predict we will continue to see for years to come.

I look forward to having each of you join me at BPI again this year, October 5-7th, 2016 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.  Stay tuned for more updates on this blog & I’ll hope to see you in Boston next month.


frank-corden_headshotAuthor: Frank Corden is the Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions for New England Controls, the leading supplier of process automation equipment and related services in the New England region. Frank has 20 years of experience in the Life Sciences industry.  He has served as a Director for Decision Management International, PerkinElmer, and Emerson Process Management in operational, research and development as well as quality leadership roles. In his current position, Frank is responsible for managing an expanding team of engineers and technicians that deliver software products and services to industrial and life science customers throughout New England.

Frank holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Tampa and has trained as an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor and Six Sigma Champion.

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