Career News
June 21, 2021

#WhyWeDoIt - Diego

"We were involved in the development of lipid nanoparticle formulations for mRNA vaccines for clinical trials; for most of us it has been the experience of a lifetime!"

#WhyWeDoIt - Diego has headed Evonik’s pharmaceutical GMP production department at the Vancouver site in British Columbia, Canada, since 2018. In his story, he talks about his fascinating tasks and the joy of working on product innovations that help humanity. For example, this enabled his team to participate in the production of a COVID19 vaccine.

Science and Learning

I am passionate about chemistry and the power of science to improve people’s lives today and tomorrow. As a dedicated student from a small city established by Italian immigrants in Southern Brazil, I was introduced to observation and experimentation by a devoted group of teachers who instilled in me the desire to continually learn and grow. 

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to interact with professors, mentors and colleagues who have contributed valuable technical, professional and personal knowledge to my journey. All these long-lasting experiences enable me to find purpose in what I do as a chemical engineer, manager, and citizen of the world. 

Making Lifesaving Products 

Over the last 15 years I have been working in the pharmaceutical field and multidisciplinary areas within the materials and chemical industries. Since 2018, I have been managing the operations of the GMP Manufacturing department at the Vancouver laboratories of Evonik’s Health Care business, located in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. 

The Vancouver laboratories of Evonik Health Care are the company’s center of excellence for lipid-based drug delivery technologies that have recently gained more attention as they are used in many COVID-19 vaccines. Our services range from pre-formulation R&D through GMP clinical trial manufacturing with proven expertise in 100+ unique formulations. We specialize in the development, scale-up and manufacture of lipid nanoparticle-based parenteral drugs, including nucleic acids (mRNA, DNA, siRNA), peptides, ligand-targeted compounds, imaging contrast agents and other novel medicinal products. 

My team and I are responsible for the compounding and aseptic filling of complex parenterals in phase 1/2 clinical trials. In addition, our department operates a cleanroom under stringent regulations (FDA, EU, Health Canada) and industry best practices to support GMP batch manufacturing.

The Vancouver site has a diverse and multicultural workforce. People are our most important asset. I am proud to be part of a visionary team of scientists, engineers and professionals who have been working around the clock to assist clients in advancing the highest quality drug products to clinics. The team demonstrates exemplary resilience, strength and determination. At the end of each campaign, we feel extremely accomplished and rewarded for our contribution. We have been participating in several multifaceted projects to support clients and patients across the globe. For example, we were involved in the development of lipid nanoparticle formulations for mRNA vaccines for clinical trials; for most of us it has been the experience of a lifetime.

What the Future Holds 

In 2020 we were all faced with an incredibly challenging year. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives significantly and forced us to adapt to a new reality. During these unprecedented times, I noticed that internal team collaboration became even stronger to overcome the uncertainties we faced along the way. However, the growing demand for mRNA and other lipid nanoparticle formulations improved the visibility of our development services and reinforced the positive impact of our work on a global scale.

COVID-19 marks the breakthrough of the mRNA technology that will enable gene therapies that go way beyond the pandemic. Future personalized medicines in cancer immunotherapy or in treating hereditary diseases are very promising applications in gene therapy using lipid nanoparticle delivery systems. Several laboratories in the nanomedicine field are based in Vancouver, which has become the hub in this area for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Our site is integrated locally with industry partners and it will continue to broaden the services and products offered globally by Evonik’s Health Care business.

There are key projects underway in GMP Manufacturing, from the expansion of production capabilities to the increase of batch capacity. This is resulting in the generation of new job openings. We are currently investing in cross-departmental training, new equipment and systems, and other pivotal initiatives to continue positioning Evonik’s Vancouver site as a competency center for nucleic acids. 

Being able to be a part of this international breakthrough movement towards the discovery of potential lifesaving drugs is remarkable. It is the affirmation that a promising and healthier future depends on the work of each and every one of us. And we are on the right track.

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