Decades in the C> space with a particular emphasis on manufacturing, including development and production of viral vectors.
Looking back I see a combined pattern of keeping my eyes open for opportunities and making choices based around my family, both nuclear and extended. C> wasn’t my original intent back in the day, but I was recruited to Merck & Co out of grad school (to work on an HIV vaccine with a gene therapy twist) and then was offered an opportunity to manage the National Gene Vector Laboratory at Indiana University where my experience happened to be the right fit. That kicked off my 20+ year career in the space. I’ve seen so many changes in that time. Long experience is atypical in a field this young and I’ve felt blessed to have been able to gather that experience and follow possibilities that gave me and my family the chance to end up where we wanted to be.
This industry used to be so small; it has always been exciting and cutting-edge but right now it’s really moving forward, with people from other specialties who bring many highly-needed skill sets coming in in droves. The flip side of the coin is that sometimes when people enter this field from a more mature space they want to follow a tried-and-true model…but just because a model worked in another field doesn’t mean it will work here. I think that’s some of what Dark Horse brings to the table: extraordinarily deep roots in understanding the pitfalls and process needs of the space. We’ve collectively lived it, so we are savvy in our suggestions of what may work…and what may work even better.
My time here has been entirely virtual to date, given that I joined the team just as the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping the U.S. Conveniently, I have extensive experience in working remotely. My typical day thus far [as of May, 2020] is split between background research, client connections, and sharing my expertise with others on the team when needed.
Would you believe: none? DHC and I found each other in a serendipitous fashion, as has been true of much of my career. (After which I did connect with a past colleague, who now also works with Dark Horse!) The chance to work with this range of other cell and gene therapy experts was too good to pass up. Something I’ve noticed about the way this team has been assembled is that we have such a breadth of specialty expertise—everyone has their own distinctive combination of skill sets, meaning we can bounce ideas and questions off of one another in a team-player sort of environment. The mutual respect is evident.
Not necessarily, but I do often think through the mentors I’ve had in my career. One of them believed very strongly in the power of mistakes and always said not to worry about making a mistake, but to worry about repeating a mistake. That sort of mindset really frees you up to be creative, while still holding you accountable. I like that balance.
Back when I was at Indiana University I was first assigned an office across the street from Riley Children’s Hospital. It looked out over an area where parents would come outside for a break and you could see the medical helicopters land with critically ill patients. With two of my own toddlers and another on the way it brought me face-to-face with the vast human toll of childhood illness and disease. I’d often need to visit the hospital for a meeting, and it was clear, the impact we could have on patients and families by getting these products into clinical trials. My goal since day 1 has been to help children, and seeing the odds these families were up against brought everything into stark perspective. A bad day at the office doesn’t stand a chance against the opportunity to save another kid.
I sort of mix-and-match my hobbies. If they have anything in common it’s probably that they give me a chance to clear my head. I spend a lot of time outdoors, doing yard work, riding my mountain bike, or fishing. I also love to read a good book.