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WPI Alumnus on the Covid-19 Frontlines

DEPARTMENT(S): 
October 20, 2020

As the world eagerly awaits a vaccine for the fast spreading COVID-19 virus, it’s no surprise that WPI alumni are at the frontlines of the global vaccine effort.

Biotechnology major Matthew Barrows ‘92 is director of Personalized Cancer Vaccine Manufacturing with Massachusetts-based Moderna, a company currently making great strides in the fight against the pandemic. Hired by Moderna in 2017 to start up the Personalized Cancer Vaccine manufacturing team, Barrows was building high-quality operations for personalized cancer vaccines when COVID-19 caused Moderna to pivot operations swiftly in search of a vaccine. In collaboration with the U.S. government and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Moderna’s small-scale operation began manufacturing Corona virus vaccines in record time and working to scale up their dose production manufacturing facility. 

When recently asked about his work with Moderna and a Corona virus vaccine, Barrows said the following: “Seeing the daily mortality rates, the impact on our health care system, the dramatic impact to the world’s economy and our way of life, it’s not hard to get motivated to work on a potential solution for the current public health crisis. Knowing that Moderna and its hardworking employees could be part of that solution is what drives me to keep pushing.”

Following in the footsteps of his father, Raymond Barrows ’69, Matt shared that WPI helped him practice perseverance and grit. And he credits WPI’s rigorous academic curriculum and strenuous project workload—combined with his demanding football, track and field, and lacrosse schedule—with teaching him how to effectively manage time and produce quality output. “It was not always easy or pretty, and I did sometimes struggle in the early days, but those were good lessons that I built on during my time at WPI and into my career in biotech.” Regrettably, Barrows’ WPI experience also included the untimely loss of his mother to cancer during his freshman year. His work in therapeutic cancer research is a powerful and truly meaningful testament to his mother’s memory.

Over the years Barrows has maintained relationships with fellow alumni, which have led to job opportunities, business leads, and referrals for new graduates. He also maintains his relationship with WPI by attending university events and by working with the Career Development Center to secure top-level talent.