Biotech & pharma:
the chemistry feels right
at the start.”
– Rima Grinberg, Schering-Plough
to work emerge when people
perspectives work together and
generate new ideas and
great business solutions.”
– David Carlson, Bayer HealthCare
By Jon Boroshok
Industry website MedZilla.com,
which focuses on biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare employment, reports that these three industries remain strong and are hiring at a brisk pace.
Diverse professionals are very welcome in these fields. There are even groups specifically designed to help them enter and advance, like
the Association for Women in Science (www.awis.org), the National
Association for Blacks in Bio (www.nab-bio.org) and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (www.noglstop.org).
Also helpful are umbrella groups for diverse techies, including the Society of Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists (www.maes-natl.org), the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (www.aises.org, Albuquerque, NM), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (www.shpe.org, Los Angeles, CA), the Society of Women Engineers (www.swe.org, Chicago, IL) and many more.
Biotech and pharma companies interviewed for this article agree that diversity is an asset to doing business. The profiles of diverse employees featured here are further proof of a progressive industry committed to a diverse workforce as a way of life.
Alvin “Al” Granada works for
Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals
Alvin Granada is a validation engineer III for Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals (Lynnwood, WA). He has more than sixteen years of experience supporting quality systems within FDA-regulated environments in the biologics, pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
Granada, born in the Philippines, came to the U.S. with his family at the age of three. He grew up in the Chicago area, good at math and science and with an engineer uncle. Young Al thought “that was cool.” He decided to be an engineer, and looked toward ME because it was a broad field with lots of applications.
Following a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Granada earned his 1990 BSME at the University of Illinois. But the new grad moved out into a weak job market.
He spent two years working as a contract employee in validation for Butler Technical Service Group (Lisle, IL). The more he learned about the pharmaceutical industry, the better he liked working with products that improve people’s quality of life. He moved up in quality engineering and validation at a number of organizations.
Quality engineering, he explains, is about product and process quality evaluation, control and improvement. Validation is about ensuring that systems are suited for their intended use; the two areas often overlap.
From 2000 to 2005 Granada was principal quality engineer at Baxter Healthcare Corp (Round Lake, IL). He managed validation projects and timelines, interacting with engineering, production, quality and facility management groups. He also conducted statistical studies like screening and hypothesis testing, and evaluated changes to manufacturing processes and materials for change control and corrective action.
After five years with Baxter, Granada was ready for a change. He was attracted to a new site Berlex was building in Seattle. He landed his present job, moved his family to Seattle and got to work. A year and a half later the company was acquired by Bayer HealthCare.
Today Granada works to make sure manufacturing equipment and automation systems meet manufacturing process requirements. He’s responsible for the 21 CFR Part 11 program for Seattle supply center operations. He also develops and maintains procedures and documentation related to automation validation and risk management. He’s a change control team member, helping to validate lab analytical instruments and business support systems.
Granada works with many internal “customers,” mostly in engineering, production and QC. Interfacing with so many people is a great perk of the job, he says. Much of the work involves compliance with regulations, and he likes the challenge of making people understand the reasons for FDA compliance, even in computer system validation.
Granada’s location makes the biological drug Leukine which is used following induction chemotherapy, mostly in older patients. It shortens the time for white blood cell recovery, which reduces chances of infection. “What we do benefits people. That’s very gratifying,” says Granada.
David Carlson, head of Bayer HealthCare’s Seattle supply center, explains that “Bayer believes an inclusive work environment isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good business. We think great places to work emerge when people with different perspectives work together and generate new ideas and great business solutions.
“Here in Seattle we have an incredibly dynamic team that works collaboratively and ensures the safe supply of one of Bayer’s important products.”
Antonia Wang directs biostatistics
at Daiichi Sankyo
Antonia Wang chose the pharmaceutical industry because she loved science and was fascinated by medicine. Today she’s executive director of biostatistics for Daiichi Sankyo (Edison, NJ). She earned a 1977 BS in agronomy and a 1979 MS in biostatistics at National Taiwan University, and a 1982 MS and 1985 PhD in statistics from Colorado State University.
She’s worked at Baxter Healthcare, Abbott Labs, the Immunobiology Research Institute and Novartis. In 1997 she joined Sankyo, which later merged with Daiichi to form Daiichi Sankyo. Wang was just the twenty-fifth employee hired in the U.S.; the company now has more than 2,400 U.S. employees.
The primary focus of Daiichi Sankyo’s R&D is cardiovascular disease, including therapies for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and acute coronary syndromes. The company is working on new medicines for glucose metabolic disorders, infectious diseases, cancer, bone and joint diseases and immune disorders.
Wang moved from director of biostatistics to senior director to executive director. It’s her job to make sure studies are designed properly, analyses are performed correctly and results interpreted appropriately. “Developing drug products has its own challenges,” she says; it’s up to her and her colleagues to resolve them.
She leads a small team of professionals based in Edison and Parsippany, NJ; London, England; and Munich, Germany. Wang enjoys her job, particularly the scientific approach and collaborative culture at Daiichi Sankyo. She and her colleagues learn from each other, and she enjoys seeing the people she’s mentored doing well on their own.
Her greatest pleasure comes when a drug is finally approved and goes out to help millions of people. She’s been involved with hypertension drugs Benicar, Benicar HCT and Azor, as well as the cholesterol-
Wang, originally from Taiwan, speaks Mandarin. This helps on the job as many of the statisticians are Chinese. Daiichi Sankyo has a very diverse workforce, with people from all over the world, Wang notes. “I look around at a team meeting and it’s like a mini United Nations. The last time we counted, eleven years ago, seventeen languages were spoken here.”
There are lots of women in Wang’s department. Being a woman doesn’t really have a downside in the pharmaceutical industry, she says. In fact it’s often an advantage, as women have strong interpersonal skills.
CEO Joe Pieroni says that at Daiichi Sankyo “We respect individuals, and the role they play in our success. We encourage diverse perspectives, and foster an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions, ideas, and individual needs.”
Dr Esther Cheung: global product
strategy at GlaxoSmithKline
Esther Cheung has been VP for global product strategy at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for two years. Based in Philadelphia, PA, she’s been with the company since 1987, when it was SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals.
Cheung has a truly international background. Her parents are from China, but she was born in Bolivia and grew up in Brazil. Her folks live in Panama, but she moved with her grandparents to San Francisco. She speaks Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese as well as English.
She earned a 1980 degree in biochemistry at Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY). She was “always curious,” and the drive to research led her on to a 1985 PhD in cell biology from the University of Texas.
While doing that work, she began to wonder if industry might be a better career than academics. So while working on a post-doctoral fellowship she also went to business school, both at the University of Washington. She completed an MBA in 1987.
She made the leap into industry with pharmaceutical sales for what was then SmithKline Beecham. She started as a regional medical associate, providing scientific support to the sales force; two years later she moved into sales management. The company, she says, has offered her many varying career opportunities in sales management, product planning and marketing; her moves have been guided by her own interest in broadening her understanding of all parts of the business.
Cheung is currently in her eighth job in twenty-one years for what is now GlaxoSmithKline. She leads a team that does commercial evaluations for specific asset or therapy areas. The team looks at unmet needs and at scientific advances that could improve medical treatment, and tries to determine how well the two match up. Cheung’s group speaks with physicians and patients, scientists and the entities that pay medical costs to translate scientific data into patient benefits.
“There’s never a dull moment,” she says. “We get to work with cutting-edge medicines and approaches that really do make a difference, making big investment decisions while trying to ‘future proof’ long-term studies.”
Cheung does occasionally get to tap into her international background, which increases her sensitivity to cultural differences in the approach to medical treatment. Given her global responsibilities, this has been a help on the job.
Being a woman in this industry has never been a problem, she says. Most family healthcare decisions are made by women, and the industry recognizes and values their input. Cheung has even helped start a women’s leadership program at GSK.
Dan Phelan, chief of staff, says that “At GSK we’ve always valued the input and perspective of all our employees. Our approach to diversity is no different. We are successful because we place a high value on people with diverse backgrounds who bring together their experiences and opinions for the good of the company and the patients we serve.”
Dr Robert Pinder directs
supply chain quality at Roche
In 1998 Robert Pinder made the move to Roche Diagnostics Corp (Indianapolis, IN), moving from source development engineer to materials manager, source development engineer, and now director of quality for the company’s supply chain.
Pinder works at the interface among business, technology and regulatory agencies: this, he says, keeps the job interesting and gives him room to grow.
His team is responsible for quality oversight of the material distribution process in three areas: quality inspection, quality assurance and supplier quality engineering. His team qualifies vendors, develops suppliers and consults on vendor and supplier improvements.
Pinder enjoys investigating problems: in many ways it’s like scientific research, he says. Prevention, he notes, is cheaper and faster than failure.
He’s bilingual, and sometimes uses his Spanish at work. For example, when he recently audited a company in Puerto Rico all dialogue and the resulting documents were in Spanish. It was a case of diversity delivering real business benefits, he notes.
Pinder was born and raised in San Juan, PR. He earned a 1985 BS in animal science and chemistry at Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, TN), and spent three years as a QC and research chemist for VMS, Inc (Montgomery, AL).
After a few years he went back to grad school at Auburn University (Auburn, AL); he earned an MS in animal nutrition in 1990.
He went on to a doctoral program at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), supported by a Purdue research fellowship. He completed his PhD in microbiology in 1996. Next he won a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowship in the department of pathology, anatomy and cell biology at Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA).
As his formal education came to an end, he found work where he could apply his studies in a corporate environment. He spent two years as a tech support scientist for Abbott Diagnostics, Inc (Barceloneta, PR.) He identified, developed and implemented process and product improvements. His contributions to the business won him the Abbott Labs VP award.
He wanted to get back to the continental U.S. and focus on a role in quality, so he moved to Seradyn, Inc (Indianapolis, IN). He worked there for a year as a senior quality engineer, validating equipment, processes and products. He also chaired a company-wide validation review board.
His experience there prepared him well for his move to Roche Diagnostics, where he’s now director of quality for supply chain.
Pinder hopes to keep progressing within the company, using all his experience and training in technology and science.
He’s passionate about the importance of quality; in 2005 he was recognized with the company’s supply chain award for excellence in leadership.
Michael Tillmann, president and CEO of Roche Diagnostics Corp in North America, declares that “Diversity at Roche is a critical and important element of our strategy. We believe in leveraging the strengths, unique experiences, and full potential that each individual brings to our organization.
“We provide opportunities for our people to take assignments all across the world,” he adds.
Rima Grinberg directs process
improvement at Schering-Plough
Rima Grinberg is director of reengineering and process improvement for Schering-Plough (Summit, NJ). She’s originally from Odessa, Ukraine. She earned her MS with honors in analytical chemistry from the State University of Odessa.
Arriving in the U.S. in 1989, Grinberg soon began a thirteen-year career with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, Parsippany, NJ), moving through a variety of increasingly responsible positions.
While working at GSK and raising two children, she earned an MBA in management from Farleigh Dickinson University (Madison, NJ).
In 2003 she joined Schering-Plough, which she felt offered her some exciting career opportunities. She was impressed by how many women were in management there, she says. At Schering-Plough, Grinberg has worked in various groups of the company’s quality and research organizations, and has led several process engineering projects.
In her current role as director of re-engineering process improvement global quality operations, a job she moved into late in 2007, she works on projects to improve the company’s internal processes.
Grinberg also leads the event subcommittee for Schering-Plough’s women’s network. “There is no challenge we can’t overcome,” says Grinberg. “Resolve it, look back, and learn: everything is a challenge at the start.”
Paul Graves, VP of global staffing and chief diversity officer at Schering-Plough, says diversity at the company “is about helping people from very different backgrounds communicate with and learn from one another.” The people, he notes, range from research scientists to marketing pros, financial types and manufacturing workers; even people working for partner companies. “That’s diversity as far as we’re concerned,” he says.
Kristin M. Pszalgowski:
process engineer at Stryker
Kristin M. Pszalgowski is a process engineer for Stryker Corp (Kalamazoo, MI). Stryker, a medical technology company, is a major player in the orthopedic and other medical specialty markets.
A native of Philadelphia, PA, Pszalgowski became interested in engineering in high school. A family friend, she notes, gave her an overview of the pleasures of ChE.
In 2004 she graduated summa cum laude from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA) with a BSChE. Half the students in the program were women, which she believes is typical of the industry. There were also lots of international students.
In college Pszalgowski got her first biotech exposure in an internship with Aventis Pasteur (Swiftwater, PA). She was involved in development, validation and qualification of equipment, critical utilities and manufacturing processes for biologic products.
During Pszalgowski’s senior year at Lehigh, Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick, NJ) recruited for its management training program, “a crash course in biotech.” She joined the company and the program and spent three years in manufacturing, product management and global business environments.
She joined Stryker in 2006, relocating to New Hampshire as a support engineer in the purification area. As part of a fifteen-person department she supports manufacturing activity, equipment procurement and process improvement and validation.
Stryker was founded in the 1940s but is still growing and changing. Pszalgowski gets to do many different things: all interesting, she says.
In December 2007 she received a “high impact” award for achievement. “It meant my work was being noticed and appreciated,” Pszalgowski concludes happily.
Steve Benscoter, VP of global HR in the instruments division, says Stryker believes that inclusion is critical to achieving its business objectives. “We are a strengths-based organization, and we make every effort to leverage differences in people and perspectives. We know the inclusive culture will help us create the innovative solutions our customers need and establish us as an employer of choice.”
Lewis Roberts, MD, PhD
of Ghana and the Mayo
Dr Lewis Roberts was born and raised in the West African nation of Ghana; he graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School in 1982. For a year he served as a medical and surgical intern at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana, and as a teaching and research assistant in the med school’s department of physiology.
Roberts moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Iowa, where he earned a 1992 PhD from the department of physiology and biophysics. He went right on to the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) to take up a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology.
When he finished his training in 1998 he was invited to join the faculty at Mayo. He’s now a researcher and an associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s college of medicine. His research focuses on liver cancer, working to translate study results into treatment, and looking at new agents coming into use.
Roberts explains that to him, science is like building a wall. Each scientist puts in one brick at a time, and so the wall grows. Roberts has added a few bricks of his own, breaking new ground in protein research, hepatitis B and liver cancer.
Emphasizing the team approach and collaboration, Roberts is one of seventy-five people in his division; some 500 people work in his department.
He has won several professional awards, including the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) minority scholar award in cancer research in both 2004 and 2005, and the oncogenomics 2005 award for dissecting cancer through genome research. He’s also been involved with the Network of Minority Research Investigators’ National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases workshop and mock study sections.
“Mayo Clinic leadership is devoted to promoting diversity as a strategic advantage,” says staffing specialist Cheryl A. Wilson. “It gives us access to the broadest pool of qualified employees, letting us recruit and retain the best talent.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES
Check the Web for latest opportunities and openings.
|Company and location
(Abbott Park, IL)
|Pharmaceutical and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics
|Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals U.S.
|Healthcare and medical products
|Pharmaceuticals and biotech
|Research and development of pharmaceuticals
|GE Healthcare Medical Diagnostics
(Princeton and Piscataway, NJ)
|Medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, performance improvement, drug discovery, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies
(Philadelphia, PA and Research
Triangle Park, NC)
|Research in pharmaceuticals and healthcare
|Integrated not-for-profit group practice;
teaching hospital, research facility and college of medicine
|Diagnostic tests and systems for integrated healthcare solutions
|Science-centered health care
Back to Top