Q & A with CASTL’s Director of Technical Training, Paul-Xavier Etter
Q: You have made a long career in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry, what first made you interested?
A: When I was a kid, genetic research was in the early stages of science and I have always been interested in pushing the limits of what we currently know. The realm of possibility within the new branch of science made me dream of an incredible future. I wanted to be part of it. With genetics and biotechnology you can identify genes and coding and can help humans adapt to the world.
Q: What changes to the industry have you witnessed over your career?
A: There have been two major changes I’ve experienced over my career so far. The introduction of artificial intelligence and Manufacturing 4.0 have both been industry altering. Through these advancements, the safety of the patient has increased as the computer is essentially a colleague of operators and reduces errors and deviations quite substantially.
Q: Tell us one of the rewarding times in your career, pre-pandemic?
A: My team and I worked a few years ago on a difficult brownfield where we needed to transform a research organization into a GMP filling facility for toxic products. This is the highest-level difficulty of product filling. After an exhausting FDA Pre-Approval Inspection, the agents in charge of the inspection praised my team and me in front of senior management for our professionalism and commitment to quality. I was proud of our team for delivering such excellent work.
Q: How did the current global pandemic impact your career?
A: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic catapulted me to the front and center of the industry, as I had already been working in the vaccine field for the past 20 years. Suddenly, many possibilities opened within the research field; the industry was granted funding for research that was previously difficult to secure funding for, clinicals studies were fast-tracked because the potential gain outweighed the limited risk, and large organizations like the World Health Organization became accessible to professionals like me. These possibilities resulted in the pathway to market for our product moving incredibly quickly.
Q: Where do you see the Canadian biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry going in the next 5-10 years?
A: I can see our industry shifting focus to individualized medicines with the increased presence of genetic medicines. I also can see an acceleration of research toward the market by the utilization of complex virtual machines, which give a better rendering of how drugs would interact in humans. Maybe with this, we’ll even see a drop in pre-clinical studies which require animals, as machines with new technology could be used as ‘virtual humans’.
Q: If you could give people entering the industry one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Never forget that you are akey person in improving the life of people. So, when work is hard, and it will be hard from time to time, remember this, and it will become more enjoyable and easier.
Q: Why did you join CASTL?
A: After 20 years of developing organizations and bio-products, it was clear to me that it was more and more difficult to find people with the right skills for the workforce. Joining CASTL is a way for me to contribute to the industry by educating those key people in the workforce and to have a greater impact on the health of Canadians. I was attracted to CASTL due to the affiliation as a global partner of the National Institute for Bioprocessing and Training (NIBRT). NIBRT’s curriculum is recognized world-wide as the gold standard for bioprocessing industry training. I wanted to help Canadians access training I didn’t have 20 years ago.
Q: What is in-store for CASTL in the next year?
A: In the next year, we will have two new facilities opened – one in Charlottetown this fall and one in Montreal next fall. The new facilities will require CASTL to hire more training staff and it will also allow for us to launch more incredible training courses, and continue to support the Canadian biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry.