Catherine Colandro

Pre-DHC expertise?

Process development and engineering for gene-modified cell therapies and monoclonal antibodies.

How did you find your way to cell and gene?

I come from a family of engineers so from the get-go my focus was math, science, and problem-solving. My degree is in biological systems engineering and my interest in preserving our environment was the original route into the major. My focus was on renewable materials and energy, including biofuels and recovering methane for a usable source of fuel.

A part of my work involved biologics development and bioreactors, etc. and I realized my interests had shifted enough that I pursued a senior project on monoclonal antibody process development. I found that my focus had shifted from the macro perspective (the environment) to the micro perspective (cells).

I then worked on monoclonal antibody processes for Biogen in 2014 shortly after I graduated. The more I immersed myself into biotherapeutics, the more interested I became in curative therapies. What Juno was working on hit close to home and the personalized nature of the medicine they were developing was just stunning; I ended up moving over there in 2016.

What about it hit close to home?

I had a friend in college with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and it affected me profoundly, as you might expect. This intensified my interest in biotech/biological therapies to help patients and ultimately get more curative medicines to market as quickly and effectively as possible. My experience at Juno allowed me to directly impact NHL patients and their families’ lives. I would sometimes get to speak with patients who had received the therapy we were working on and hear their experiences first-hand. Those personal stories only intensified my motivation. Cell and gene therapy is a passion project for so many of us: we’re driven to get these therapies to market so they can make a difference in people’s lives.

Are you able to tell us about the therapy you were working on?

It was Breyanzi®! I got the chance to dive straight in to working on cell therapy products and it was intense and amazing. Being able to participate in the development and troubleshooting of the Breyanzi process, helping to get that product ready for commercialization, and experiencing the filing of that BLA—everything about that process confirmed that this is the field for me.

And how did you make the choice to work for Dark Horse?

A colleague connected me with Anthony and as I realized after speaking with him, the ability to work on such a diverse set of problems and help so many more patients was very compelling. Dark Horse gave me the opportunity to take that experience with a single therapy and pull back from it to look at the bigger picture. Now I can apply my knowledge across a range of client needs and use my knowledge to make it possible for numerous therapies to take a variety of next steps and get into the hands of patients. That’s a powerful motivator for me. I loved Seattle and the booming cell and gene therapy scene there, but we decided to make the move to Montana to better align with our lifestyle. I love that Dark Horse gives us the flexibility to work from a place of my choosing, and still make a huge impact on patients’ lives.

Tell us about your experience in Montana so far!

I’m from the east coast and have moved all over. After spending almost every weekend driving to the Cascades from Seattle, we now have access to hiking, backpacking, and skiing right here in our backyard. The move also allowed us the space to rescue an Australian Cattle Dog and Taka seems to love the outdoors just as much as we do.

Catherine sitting with her dog at the top of a mountain

Catherine and Taka are pictured here on a hike in the Bitterroots.

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