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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / October 2018 / Working in the Valley of the Shadow of Death - Transferring New Technologies from the Research Lab t

Working in the Valley of the Shadow of Death - Transferring New Technologies from the Research Lab to Commercial Manufacturing

Career Story by Rick Lawless, Director of Industry Programs at NC State University

During the first 21 years of my working career, I performed various roles associated with the commercial production of industrial biochemicals, clinical diagnostic products, and vaccines.  My instructions were simple: manufacture products that met all expectations for quality, compliance, cost, and supply.  Of course, no one should die or get hurt in the process.  While I had some appreciation for product features and knew that countless preclinical and clinical evaluations had been conducted to prove that the products were safe and effective, I must admit that I rarely thought about how the processes made it to the manufacturing floor.

In 2006, I left the comfort of industry and commercial operations to start-up the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) at North Carolina State University.  In the early years, I managed operations and taught university courses.  As a “staff person”, I had no chance at tenure, but I also didn’t have a quota for proposals, grant awards, and journal publications.  I also didn’t understand why so many of the basic research projects received funding.  I just I couldn’t see how they would ever result in commercial products.  For me, commercial relevance is everything.  I do realize, however, that basic research is important.

Over time, budget pressures motivated BTEC to start offering contract services.  Many of the projects involved process development or equipment testing necessary for commercialization.  Since demand has continued to be steady, BTEC now has a small team of scientists dedicated to contract services.  When NC State joined the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) consortium in 2017, BTEC was well positioned to partner with any team looking to commercialize a new technology.  I’m currently leading a team that will establish a network of automation test beds that will be used for workforce training and testing new process analyzers and software.        

If you’re interested in learning more about my career path, you can read my 2017 Career Story on URBEST Blog.  If you’re interested in technology transfer and/or would like to hear about a new internship opportunity at BTEC, come visit me on Wednesday October 3 at 9 am in the Louise Slaughter Conference Room (1-9555).  I hear there will be yogurt parfaits and coffee!

Tracey Baas | 9/21/2018

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