Why ‘Having the Courage to Speak Up and Challenge’ Is Vital in Biopharma

Dave Connolly of MSD spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about the importance of being willing to experiment and learn new ways to solve problems.

Dave Connolly is head of manufacturing science and technology organization at MSD’s single-use digital technology facility in Dunboyne, Co. Meath. His primary role is to deliver the company’s new biologics portfolio.

He told SiliconRepublic.com about what his role entails, including the work he does with the team at the new biological facility.

He also discussed the skills he uses every day and the ongoing struggles he has with balancing his short-term work and long-term strategies.

‘It doesn’t matter where you work, we have a one team mentality’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical workday?

At MSD Dunboyne, our work is very different every day, depending on the priorities of the new products and the needs of our operations. Our site is built as a state-of-the-art facility with the latest technology to enable this flexibility: all our equipment is mobile and the design is like an open ballroom.

However, I work with many of the same teams every day, including the bioprocess lab, where we introduce size reduction models to mimic the large-scale processes that produce drugs; the bioprocess engineering team, which installs the new process in operations; and our analytical science and technology team, working in all areas to develop new analytical methods for testing and build the necessary laboratory systems for the products.

I also work closely with new product launch leaders who manage all aspects of the product programs. These business leaders act as conductors to make it all happen.

In addition to MSD Dunboyne, I also work closely with the global MSD network to develop strategic change programs, for example transformational charters to enable rapid launches or projects to build unique technology platforms for the future.

Another aspect of the role is our partnership with MSD’s new Biologics Innovation Xceleration (BioNX) facility, an MSD research facility located on the MSD Dunboyne campus that will further drive innovation on the ground.

By making the most of the proximity between our site and the new BioNX facility, we have a shared technical forum with R&D to agree common approaches to how we work, build new capabilities in continuous biologics, and capture opportunities. identify for talent to gain experience in other areas of the company.

When you add it all up, no day is the same.

What kind of projects do you work on?

The types of projects I work on can be very varied, including process development studies, large-scale biological process improvement, transfer and development of analytical methods, facility-fit projects to identify future capital investments, new product introductions and more.

We also have a five-year strategic roadmap of projects aimed at preparing MSD Dunboyne for the future and ensuring we stay ahead as we move forward, and these opportunities are great to gain business and technical project experience .

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Leadership and collaboration skills are critical and needed every day to ensure that we are aligned as a team and that our goals are clear so that we can win as one team.

Technical skills in science and engineering are also essential to help us understand the new product pipeline, while ensuring we act quickly during the launch of a new product – as it all happens at least twice as fast as in the past!

For us at MSD Dunboyne, we also find it very important to be willing to experiment and learn new ways to overcome problems. We have a culture of collaboration, creativity and ingenuity, and invest in our people accordingly to ensure they thrive in their roles.

I also believe it is vital to have the courage to speak up and challenge how we operate today. I always encourage challenge because it drives the changes we need and enables our vision of leading science to save and improve lives around the world.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

The hardest part is balancing the work to be done in the coming days and months, with the future planning looking at five to ten years.

You have to be disciplined to find the right balance and make the right decisions for the company. I have to stay in strategic mode, especially for the investment decisions we make for future technologies.

Do you have any productivity tips to help you through the workday?

We work very closely as a team, so we divide and rule over all areas as much as possible. This is important for the efficiency of our team and we use strong communication processes to enable this way of working.

We need to keep our experts focused as much as possible on science, analytical science or engineering, because that’s where the greatest value is created.

What surprised you the most when you first started this job, what was important in the role?

Over the past 20 years in biopharma, and in the different areas of the company where I’ve worked, whether it’s biologics, rare disease drugs, or traditional medicines, the most important aspect in all of them is people.

Having the right team of people with you and always having a strategic vision is what makes the difference.

At MSD Dunboyne and across the MSD network, I am fortunate to work with extremely talented leaders with impressive expertise, who accelerate the development of our talent and are so passionate about what they do.

How has this role changed as the pharmaceutical industry has grown and evolved?

The role has become company-wide and more holistic over the years. An example of this is how all our scientists, engineers, analytical scientists, systems experts and product leaders are gathered together in one team to deliver the new product pipeline. This allows us to switch faster.

We are now bringing our team together with R&D for even more speed. The BioNX facility on the MSD Dunboyne campus is unique in that sense and is the first of its kind outside of the US.

The other element of the industry that has changed is our approach to work allocation. At MSD Dunboyne, we have an agile organizational model, where people ‘flow’ to the most important priorities for the company. This provides visibility on priorities and gives people more exposure to different areas of the business than before.

It doesn’t matter where you work, we have a one team mentality. This allows us to switch quickly and remain flexible and adaptable in an ever-changing environment, enabling us to better respond to the healthcare needs of tomorrow.

What do you like most about work?

I enjoy working with talented and passionate people on our site and across the network, creating partnerships to launch the most innovative biologics for the first time. I also like to see what’s going to happen in five years, to be a part of what’s next: whether it’s new skills, technologies or both, and to understand how I can be ready .

Personally, the opportunity to develop new cancer drugs is one aspect that gives me real purpose. After losing very close relatives to cancer, it inspires me more than anything.

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