Take Ten with Team HPNE: Meet Katie Lyons

Get an inside look into the MSAT team and the in-house testing capabilities at HPNE with this month's interview featuring our Director of Manufacturing, Science & Technology (MSAT) Katie Lyons.

Throughout your career, you have had the opportunity to work at multiple major biopharma companies. Could you tell us a little more about your career leading to this point?

In the last 20 years, I have worked for some of the most prominent pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies (some that are even HPNE customers!). My experience has been mainly in Microbiology, but I also dabbled in some Quality roles as well.

I was lucky to get hired right out of college by a reputable biotech company, starting out as an entry level analyst. From there, I gained a vast amount of experience that allowed me to become a supervisor, manager, as well as the head of an entire department of 45 individuals.

Fast forward to 2018 and I found an amazing opportunity to work at HPNE! It has been an amazing 5+ years working here, and I think my previous experiences in pharma and biotech companies have significantly helped me in my career at HPNE.

We noticed that you have a degree in biology, as well as your MBA. What inspired you to pursue your education further when obtaining your master's degree?

I always knew I wanted to obtain higher education beyond my BS. I toyed around with getting a Masters in a scientific field, but then I decided to step outside my comfort zone and learn more about the business side of things. I had always been a technical & science-oriented person, so I felt I would be more well-rounded if I honed the knowledge and skills in subjects like entrepreneurship, strategy, supply chain, and leadership.

Multiple of your previous roles were quality control positions. What drew you to pursue a career path in quality?

Honestly, it was because my first job out of college was in Quality Control. When I was searching for new opportunities at other companies throughout my career, I used the industry experience I gained to my advantage in order to obtain higher level positions at other companies. If I veered off from QC Micro, I would have had to essentially start over. I was on a roll…so why stop? And I am very pleased at how my career has turned out!

You lead our Manufacturing Sciences & Technology (MSAT) team here at High Purity New England. Could you tell us a little bit about what an average day looks like for your team?

The MSAT group at HPNE is fortunate to have new opportunities arising every day, so we are always doing something different. Our group collaborates cross-functionally with every department within the company — we help improve processes, provide scientific support, and manage many project activities that strive for continued efficiency and compliance initiatives.

Some of the projects we have completed or are actively working on include: sterilization validation, shelf-life stability studies, confirmation of sterile barrier systems, laboratory testing of HPNE assemblies, cleanroom contamination control, material science evaluations, new product development, electronic system implementation… and the list goes on!

We have an amazing team that dives right in and rocks it in everything they do. I’m so lucky to have such great direct reports!

HPNE currently has five lab spaces. Could you tell us a little more about each lab space and what kind of testing is done in each?

We are lucky to have five high-tech, high-quality lab spaces at our facilities. First is our main lab, which is our largest space. We have most of our test equipment located in the main lab, which includes a FTIR chemical composition tester, ADMET pull tester, turbidimeter, protein particle analyzer, scanning electron microscope, and more.

Secondly, we have our micro lab. I am blessed to have a Ph.D. Microbiologist on my staff, and the lab he uses contains all materials and equipment needed for testing of microbial assays. We have an ISO Class 5 Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) hood to aseptically test and analyze “bugs”.

Then there is our Cell Culture Lab, which we are currently utilizing as our chamber farm. Our lab needs multiple incubators, refrigerators, freezers, and ovens to promote the detection of microorganisms and control environmental conditions for test purposes. We also have a second BSC, as well as an endotoxin detector unit.

Our chemistry lab houses our brand new, sub-visible particulate analyzer. We’re currently working on validating this equipment so that we can test for the detection of particulates in our HPConnexx™ Single-Use Assemblies. Currently, we outsource this test to contract labs, but in the near future we will do this testing in-house!

Finally, we have our Wet Lab, which is our main storage & supply area. It also contains our weighing balances, and our pH/conductivity meters.

From your perspective on the MSAT team, and with your biology background, how do you believe HPNE products stand apart from other options on the market?

I truly believe that HPNE is the best in our niche because of our agile, collaborative culture, allowing us to consistently meet our customer’s needs. We have the capabilities to create custom products that help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies manufacture their drug products. I believe that our MSAT team is especially valuable because we can provide testing and data to support our customers, ensuring that they are purchasing safe, high-quality products from HPNE.

You recently participated in the panel event hosted by HPNE’s first employee resources group (ERG), the Women of HPNE. Could you share with us a little bit about your experience moderating the panel, and any major takeaways you had?

It was an honor to be asked to moderate this panel. I found it very interesting that we had three different speakers that were able to contribute unique viewpoints on the topic of “Managing Change”. I really appreciated #TeamHPNE Technical Product Manager Emily Kennedy’s perspective. She has yet to be in an official management position in her career so far, but was able to provide the perspective of being a direct report, and share her experiences with past & present managers.

The insights provided by the other two speakers, Kris Hosford, Technical Operations Sr. Manager at TPI and Linda Linphanit, Director of Quality at AstroNova, also created some great key takeaways for the audience.

As someone who frequently works cross-functionally with other departments, what are some of your communication strategies, especially when communicating about the more technical aspects of your roles that may not be easily understood by those in non-technical departments?

I have found that all of the colleagues I frequently interact with at HPNE have an extremely collaborative spirit — we all want to succeed and help everyone around us succeed as well.

In my opinion, one of the best things to have between each other is trust. Showing that you genuinely care about others and helping them achieve their goals is so rewarding. Being transparent, honest, and authentic are also keys in forming successful relationships. Lastly, while a bit unorthodox, I think a little humor, playful banter, and tomfoolery helps break up the stressful parts of the day!😊

What is one of your favorite things about working for HPNE?

The people I work with. I know it may sound cheesy, but I sincerely enjoy coming into work, pow-wowing with everyone, and putting our heads together to make the wheels turn. I began my career almost 20 years ago, and in that time, my co-workers at HPNE are the best I’ve had.

What is one of your favorite things to do in your free time?

I like to play volleyball, cook (penne alla vodka…yum!) and watch movies — action, sci-fi, and fantasy are my favorites.

Do you have a favorite place you have traveled to and/or a place that is high on your travel bucket list?

So far my favorite place that I have traveled to is Hawaii. I went there for my honeymoon and wish I could have stayed. Although I haven’t traveled very far outside of the United States yet, that needs to change soon! One of these days I want to stay in one of those huts in the middle of a crystal blue ocean, with see-through glass floor below me like the ones in Fiji or the Maldives.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

For any of our current or potential customers reading, we would love to begin (or continue) working with you to help save lives. I guarantee our entire company will work as hard as we can to meet your needs!

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About HPNE

As the industry needs grow, High Purity New England, Inc. continues to supply the biopharmaceutical industry with a range of innovative products, from drug discovery and development to fill-finish, including their flagship product, custom single-use assemblies, as well as pumps, sensors, bioreactor systems, storage and handling solutions and other single-use solutions. Along with their own manufactured products for the global market, they are also a distributor for more than 18 brands in North America.

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