Joshua Beckett

Pre-DHC expertise?

Gene therapy, focusing on analytical method development, tech transfer, and validation.

What was your biggest fear in applying to DHC?

I was afraid I wasn’t qualified enough! I felt like I was stagnating in a previous position because I was laser-focused on writing validation/transfer protocols there. I wanted to branch out a bit but wasn’t sure if I was Dark Horse material. I took a shot and applied and it turns out I was a fit! I wonder if a lot of us undervalue what we ourselves take for granted (our own knowledge). It makes me want to encourage everyone who has experience in this space to go ahead and apply: the worst that can happen is that you don’t get the job, but if you do…what a feeling and what an opportunity! This is the future, what we’re working on right now.

And what has this first year and a half brought you?

Intense satisfaction. I’ve learned more “by doing” in this past year than by working 4-5 years in industry, where our skillsets were extensively specialized. I refuse to suffer through being bored at a job and that is not a risk here!

If you could tell the entire C and GT industry something, what would it be?

That analytical needs are critical long before filing. You know the classic Chinese proverb that says that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…and that the second-best time is right now? That’s how I sum up analytic development. As soon as doing so crosses your mind, you should address it. Even if you feel like you should have done it last year, doing it today is so much better than waiting until next week. Helping clients get ahead of the curve on this is an amazing feeling.

And why is the sense of urgency so strong?

The emphasis on time as a factor is especially true in cell and gene therapy. These are life-saving treatments and, even in phase 1, people need these products as quickly as possible. I’m sure no one thinks of the analytics folks behind the scenes as being particularly close to the patient’s experience, but we are, in that what we pay attention to can be the reason they get a treatment in time. That’s incredibly rewarding.

Many clients aren’t quite sure what the analytics should be telling them, and that’s one of the places where I come in. Maybe we know there’s something wrong with the assays but it isn’t clear what. Reviewing the analytics gives us the ability to uncover that. None of us know what we don’t know, which is why all of us benefit from another viewpoint, someone with knowledge outside of our sphere.

Is there any work experience you have that’s unusual for someone in your role?

I taught science for three years at a charter school, so I worked with kids from 3rd to 8th grade. We had a very hands-on approach and it was a fantastic experience for me. It got me used to existing comfortably in organized chaos, made me forever unflappable (ed note: Is that a dare?) and gave me a lot of practice in unearthing the “why” of processes and an understanding of how we learn.

How does consulting compare to teaching?

They’re similar in that we’re helping others by sharing our knowledge. We’re helping to identify what needs to be known in order to proceed.

What do you do to unwind?

I know most people won’t understand this, but I find Excel and JMP to be extremely soothing, almost zen, so a lot of my actual work is something that I would also do to relax. Cooking is another zen experience for me (I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who is a fantastic cook so I learned from the best!) and my interest and skill definitely increased during the pandemic.

The pandemic also turned me into a plant person. Did you know there are stores where you can get a plant-a-month subscription? It’s fantastic! Between cooking and teaching/consulting and helping plants thrive and my interest in fostering dogs, I guess I’m a nurturer by nature?

Wait, tell us more about fostering dogs!

Oh, it’s the best. I do this through my local humane society. The most I’ve ever fostered is 15 in one year…typically they stay with me for 1-4 months while I’m conditioning them to be adopted and find their “forever family.” Helping the dogs learn or re-learn how to bond with humans is so emotionally rewarding, although relinquishing them at the end of the fostering period tugs at the heartstrings, you know. Puppies are particularly gratifying, but I joke that they also function as birth control because wow, they’re a lot of work!

How was it, starting a new job right before the pandemic really hit?

I can come across as a shy, reserved sort of person but it turns out it’s really hard to be alone and unable to see other people! Having colleagues all over the world connecting through things like a Zoom happy hour has been fantastic because we’re all in it together and made it me feel noticeably less alone. I am, though, very curious to see how we’ll discover that the pandemic has affected the whole of humanity long-term. That’ll be some extremely interesting data to analyze one of these days.

Josh wakeboarding

Josh loves to boat, jet-ski, and wakeboard (as pictured here). Great action shot, Josh!

Two puppies snuggling (one brown, one white with specks of dark gray). Their names are Heidi and Henry and they were fostered by Joshua Beckett

Bonus foster puppy picture! Heidi (on top) and Henry, snuggling.

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