Kristen Picard ’06 (MS, Bioscience Administration), an instructor and curriculum coordinator at WPI’s Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center (BETC), focuses on teaching students the foundation of biopharmaceutical industry manufacturing processes.

What initially sparked your interest in manufacturing?

In 2004 I began working in the field of biologics manufacturing, where live cells serve as “mini manufacturers” of medicines. What initially attracted me to the industry was the idea that I could use science to make medicines that would help others find relief from devastating illnesses.

 What do people not know about manufacturing that you wish they did?

I love to surprise people with stories about the level of cleanliness required for the biomanufacturing process. Typically, when someone thinks of manufacturing, they might envision anything from old industrial textile mills to greasy equipment shops designed for mass production. The biomanufacturing process is quite different. For example, the floors, walls, ceilings, and surfaces are cleaned on a routine basis with strong cleaning agents. Also, when entering the manufacturing suite, you are required to wear special clothing. When I was working in the industry, my daily outfit included blue scrubs, and over the scrubs a fully zippered white suit with elastic cuffs on the arms and legs, a hairnet, shoe covers, and latex or nitrile gloves. Make-up, nail polish, and jewelry are not allowed in the manufacturing suite. Also, people and equipment are required to pass through air locks that maintain differential air pressure in order to move from one room to another. The air locks keep unfiltered air out of the HEPA-filtered production suites. These are just some of the great measures taken to keep medicines from becoming contaminated. 

 What’s the most interesting/surprising thing you've learned about manufacturing while at WPI?

One of the most crucial things I’ve come to learn is the importance of understanding the science behind the biomanufacturing process and its supporting processes. Historically, and even recently, there have been numerous examples of human fatalities and crippling financial losses that could have been avoided if all employees (including management and administration) had a stronger understanding of, and respect for, the science behind the work. 

 How do you hope your contributions to manufacturing will impact the world?

I hope that by educating students and professionals in the field of biomanufacturing we will collectively contribute to the safe and effective development and manufacture of additional remedies for numerous illnesses worldwide.

The future of manufacturing is gene therapy. Recent advances in the area of gene therapy for the treatment of both genetic and nonhereditary conditions are truly remarkable. Due to the highly specialized nature of these therapies (many are patient-specific), there are significant challenges associated with the manufacturing process. Researchers are tackling these and other challenges now and, as a result, the future is hopeful for many who otherwise would not have had a life-saving treatment option.