I Feel the Pace of my Development at Lonza is Twice as Fast as Previous Jobs

Like many, I have experienced ups and downs during my professional journey. For years, I used to focus on improving my weaknesses until I realized that it was my strengths that differentiated me from others. This realization marked a turning point in my career. I gradually realized that I had the aptitude for organizing technical information and writing convincing scientific arguments— this is a key advantage in leading core pharma activities, such as deviation investigations, change requests and validation. After having spent five years as a project engineer, I moved into a manufacturing support role that required me to develop product processing expertise. I became passionate about my work again because it rekindled my prior interest in chemistry from my school days.

In 2016, I became the project manager for a multi-million dollar site capacity expansion at my previous company. The scope of the project included the physical extension of an existing building, introducing a new unit of specialized equipment, and converting technical space into cleanrooms. The project resulted in the debottlenecking of the facility to achieve higher efficiency and production throughput when required. This experience led me to join Lonza in 2019, a global manufacturing partner to the pharma, biotech and nutrition industries. I joined as the Department Manager for project engineering at the Singapore Tuas site. This state-of-the-art facility provides mammalian development and manufacturing services and cell therapy capabilities for both clinical and commercial operations. As part of my current role in Lonza, I manage all the capital investments on-site to achieve the objectives of growth and business maintenance. I work with other internal departments, such as EHS (Environment, Health & Safety), Quality, Manufacturing and the SGIE (Strategic Growth Investment & Engineering) to develop strategies for each project.

Our Singapore site is part of Lonza’s global manufacturing network, which helps our customers deliver new and innovative medicines by supporting the entire lifecycle of their molecule – from late discovery through market supply. Operating in five continents and with a range of scales from 1kL up to 20kL, including single-use and stainless-steel bioreactors, Lonza offers expression technologies and services for a variety of products, including mammalian-derived molecules. Our services cover both drug substance and drug product and support the entire lifecycle of a molecule.

In this fast-paced and rapidly changing CDMO environment, I feel as though the pace of my development at Lonza is twice as fast as it has been in my previous jobs. My team and I implement a large volume of projects at the Singapore site, no matter how big or small, including tech transfer projects for NPI (new product introduction). This has enabled us to gain experience at ‘twice’ the speed – all while maintaining quality for our customers. As a result, Lonza is an environment where I have learned and grown, shaped by distinct key factors which have been at the core of my development.

Enabling innovation for our customers
At Lonza, I have been exposed to a wide range of projects and tasks, which have definitely accelerated my learning and development. The site in Singapore is home to mammalian and cell therapy manufacturing operations and development services. Working for technologies such as cell and gene therapy is truly exciting and stimulating. These therapies are seen as the new frontier of medicine and bring new challenges in manufacturing affordable curative medicines to patients globally. As I support different capabilities at the Singapore site, my tasks include to simultaneously liaise with multiple business units. This poses its unique challenges due to the specificity of the respective goals. However, thanks to being faced with such a diverse range of modalities, I learned to leverage the common technical knowledge and transferrable skills to achieve success on multiple fronts. For example, knowledge in cleanroom classification is applicable to both the mammalian manufacturing facility and the cell therapy facility, while experience in biopharma project management can be applied to both facilities as the project lifecycles are largely similar. I recall a particularly proud moment when I successfully leveraged site resources to complete the shutdown activities in a cell therapy facility to enable the introduction of a new customer’s processes while juggling my role as the project manager for the detailed design phase of a mammalian manufacturing expansion project. Working on diverse projects at the forefront of ground-breaking technology motivates me to deliver tailored and innovative solutions for each and every customer.

Continuous improvement is also never far from our minds as we are constantly evaluating new processes and keeping ourselves updated on the latest developments in equipment hardware technology with the aim of taking our operational efficiency to greater heights and creating better value for our customers. As an example, I am providing oversight to one of my other team members who is currently leading a cycle-time reduction project which can be brought about by the introduction of a new clean-in-place skid and piping network modification. This means that, upon the completion of this project in the future, given the same production campaign duration, we would be able to produce more batches for a specific customer.

Investing today to grow tomorrow
Lonza has placed a strategic focus on investments supporting growth across its global network, which contributed to around 80% of its total CAPEX in H1 20211. The company continuously evaluates its assets and invests in developing and installing new capacity and technology to meet the market demand. Working in this dynamic environment is exciting, and I feel I play a part in enabling customers to serve their patients globally. Specifically, in the Singapore region, we are known as a company expanding rapidly and increasingly, allowing us to capture market share from our competitors. Recently, our Lonza Singapore site announced the expansion of development services for mammalian products as part of continued investment in Asia2. It aims to double the existing laboratory footprint to 1,800m2. We are adding more capacity across all our technologies, supporting upstream and downstream processing and analytical development. The expansion includes more than doubling our laboratory-scale and miniaturized bioreactor capacity and adding the capability for protein characterization by mass spectrometry for the first time in Singapore.

The expansion will create 70 new positions in the current development services team and will support the global operations network and help meet global demand for mammalian development services that support Lonza’s manufacturing sites. While I was not directly managing this project myself, I trained my team member in the project manager role, strengthening her skills and developing her capabilities for future project management assignments—which is also in line with investing in our people for the future.

Making a meaningful difference together
I have also had the opportunity to lead a team that has expertise across many engineering disciplines, such as piping, process and building services. This has enabled us to support multiple business units and projects and leverage common technical knowledge and transferable skills to achieve success on many fronts. For example, we are able to conduct feasibility studies in-house, allowing us to respond to customer requests with agility and implement changes faster. Thanks to everyone in the team having a different skill set, we can learn from each other and develop our capabilities even more. I am amazed at a depth of knowledge and professionalism we have in our respective fields, not just in my team but also across the wider Singapore team. We are highly capable and together, we can take on a multitude of challenges. The combination of Lonza’s agility and strong work ethic makes Lonza Singapore an inspiring place to work!

My professional development journey has taught me many valuable lessons. If I had to pick one to sum up my development, it would be to always seek a working environment where you will be challenged, even if it is outside of your comfort zone. Constantly looking out for learning opportunities and making the effort for individual development are key to ensuring meaningful career growth. I recall during my interview at Lonza, the interviewer said to me “there is never a dull day at Lonza.” Those words turned out to be very true. Our environment is highly dynamic, and that definitely is appealing and rewarding to people who want to achieve more in their careers.

1 Lonza Reports Strong Momentum in H1 2021, with 14.7% CER Sales Growth and 33.3% CORE EBITDA Margin; 23 July 2021
2 Lonza to Expand Development Services for Mammalian Products in Singapore, 07 October 2021

About the author

Bo Quan Tan

Bo Quan Tan

Lonza Singapore, Manager of Project Engineering Department

Based in Singapore, Bo Quan joined Lonza Singapore in 2019 as Manager of Project Engineering department. He leads an engineering team to provide technical support for the Biologics Mammalian & Development Services business as well as Cell & Gene Technologies business in their capital projects. This involves managing the lifecycle of projects (from concept study to basic design and detail design), project timelines and budget. Bo Quan also leads the alignment between the Capex and Process teams for new projects and tech transfer.

He started his career in the Engineering, Procurement & Construction Management (EPCM) industry where he contributed to the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) bulk vaccine facility from 2007 to 2009. In 2012, he transitioned from project engineering to manufacturing support roles in the same facility which he helped build. Bo Quan became the project manager of a site capacity expansion project in 2016.
The experience gained while running this project equipped him with further skills and knowledge, empowering him to lead the project engineering department when he subsequently joined Lonza.

Bo Quan holds an MBA in Project Management from the University of Management and Technology (UMT) and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

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