Building New Habits at BPI

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

I live a good distance from Boston, and for those of you familiar with traveling into town via the Mass Pike, you know how bad it can back up.  So I left the house pretty early (0 dark 30). My drive to the New England Controls office in Mansfield, MA and the route to Boston share about the first 5 miles of the trip.  Traffic was initially very light, and as a result, I was quickly deep in thought – what sessions was I planning to attend, who would be at BPI that I wanted to meet with, and how to coordinate that with the few “day job” commitments that I couldn’t seem to avoid.

Suddenly I realized that I had passed the intersection where the routes diverged.  Fortunately, I hadn’t gone that far and was got back on track.  But missing the intersection reminded me how much we are creatures of habit.  I drove to Boston pretty much every day for over 4 years while working for Perkin Elmer and yet, the 4 years of traveling to the NEC offices has quickly become second nature.

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I thought about that a bit.  I view myself as someone who embraces change, yet for me habits are still natural and without a reason to change them, become pretty engrained.  That’s why I relish going to BPI every year.  It gives me a reason to change my habits, to hear about new technologies, to look at the work that we do through the lens of others, and to interact with colleagues who we haven’t seen for a while and who may be in adjacent but related areas of work.

As I arrived this morning, I rode the escalator with a colleague Rajesh Bari of Lonza (hopefully I’ll see you at his presentation on Friday 3:00 to 3:30 – Evaluation of Advanced Media/Feed Characterization Methods for an Improved Understanding of Media/Feed Variability). We chatted briefly about initiatives related to speeding the manufacturing process through improvements in supporting activities such as material release and review by exception.  A good conversation that I expect we’ll continue later this week.  And given that my blog earlier this week touched on Process Analytical Technology as a new tool for reducing bioreactor feed control, we’ll have an additional topic or two to discuss.

Later I had the pleasure of running into Richard Engel of Corning during a break.  He and I worked together several years ago when he led the Life Sciences business for Perkin Elmer.  Richard was the Chair for the Innovations in Cell Processing.  The session that had just completed, Automating CAR-T Cell Manufacturing: Building a Solid Foundation – Rod Reitz from Novartis, focused on the opportunities and benefits of automating cell therapy manufacturing steps and the process Novartis used to identify the areas of the process that could be automated with the greatest overall benefit.  The most promising areas were generally early in the process and in the harvesting the cultured cells, where the manual intervention was greatest.  Further, given the cost of automation and the challenges of assuring comparability to earlier non-automated processes, Rod believes the optimum point to apply automation is during production of Phase II material.  Here you get the benefit with less risk of the product being rejected in trials.

For those of you who are in more traditional biotech manufacturing and are contemplating addressing automation gaps, do you agree that application has the most benefit in manual processes and in the middle of the product development cycle? I’d love to hear from you – Feel free to e-mail me at frank.corden@newenglandcontrols.com with your thoughts.

I’ve been here a few hours, yet already I’m thinking about our business opportunities differently and alternatives approaches to existing challenges.

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