Lynne (Cox) Handanyan ’86 is the recently retired vice president of Global Chemical Research and Development at Pfizer, spanning two countries and several sites in the United States. Under Handanyan’s leadership, the
department produced a range of products on their journey to be a new medicine: from Xalkori to Xeljanz; Chantix and Ibrance, Vyndaqel and Inlyta. Looking at therapies in the pipeline—including vaccines for many cancers, devastating Clostridium Difficile [C. diff] bacterial infections, plus drug therapies for cancer or alopecia areata—the potential human impact is significant.
For her contributions to her field, Handanyan was recently recognized with the Industry Leadership Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The award is presented to individuals or teams working in industries served by chemical engineers, and recognizes accomplishments in management; sales and marketing; public, community, and industrial relations; and public service. Handanyan is recognized for “outstanding leadership in pharmaceutical development and for delivery of all Pfizer chemical processes for clinical development and commercial implementation, making a substantial difference in patients’ lives.”
The Industry Leadership Award is one of several Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards that are AIChE’s highest annual honors, with each recipient nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted on by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The awards recognize eminent achievements and world-class contributions across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors.
We caught up with Handanyan to ask her a few questions about her career and what this recognition means to her.
What are among your top few accomplishments at Pfizer?
Two things come to mind. First, being part of a team that developed robust, sustainable, and cost-effective manufacturing processes for new medicines that improve patients’ lives—there is nothing more rewarding than hearing the stories of patients who have significantly improved their quality of life as a result of the medicines we supply. The second is related to working with the next generation scientists and engineers—sharing advice from my own experiences, mentoring them, and then watching them thrive as they take on new projects and expanded responsibilities.
How did WPI prepare you for your career?
In addition to the technical skills I acquired through the core curricula, WPI’s project-based learning developed collaboration and problem-solving skills that were invaluable to me during my Pfizer career as both a researcher and a leader.
What does it mean to you to be an industry leader?
Leaders set the example for others—through both their actions and their words. Leaders must take bold moves to drive their functions/companies forward. They need to be externally oriented to anticipate and prepare for future scenarios. Most importantly, they need to build excellence in their teams and organizations by bringing together the best technically capable scientists and engineers, with diverse experiences and backgrounds and support them to thrive- and to listen and act on their suggestions.
What does this recognition from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers mean to you?
I am so very grateful for being recognized with the 2020 Industry Leader Award. I appreciate my colleagues who nominated me and am humbled at being selected from among such accomplished professionals. As I have recently retired after a 34-year career, this award represents the culmination of my work for the most prestigious professional organization of my discipline.