Business Leader, Cell Therapy for Asia Region
Angela Chen, Business Leader for cell therapy in Asia, says her team’s mission is simple: To provide cell therapy companies in Asia with access to the best technologies and services so they can deliver best-in-class cell therapies to patients. For example, Angela’s team is supporting Shanghai-based Cellular Biomedicine Group (CBMG) in its aim to speed up manufacturing timelines for its CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials and future commercial launch.
A scientist by training, Angela completed her PhD at University of Pittsburgh in human genetics. Working on a study of the association between genetic variation and heart disease (genome-wide association study, GWAS), she began to appreciate that it is through the application of research findings that treatment for diseases such as cancer and heart disease are possible. Angela decided to take a different career path and prepared herself to transition from research to industry, pursuing an MBA part-time while continuing her post-doctoral research. She landed a job with a biotech company, starting in product management, then moving into sales and marketing, gaining real-world business experience and skills. Angela focused on developing and promoting the newest technology and tools to enable scientists to discover, develop and manufacture diagnostic methods and patient therapies, a focus that continues to inform her work.
The cell therapy industry is evolving and growing so quickly, especially in China, and everybody is trying to catch the wave, Angela says. “The challenge for our customers is to make the right choices: should we stay with what we are doing? Transition to the latest technology? Will we have to ‘play catch-up’? My team’s job is to provide the best information, bring knowledge and best practices to help our customers succeed.”
Point of pride
In 2008, Angela made another bold career move. She had been in the US for more than 10 years, and was well established in her career in the life sciences sector, but she saw tremendous opportunity in China. There was a lot of demand for business leaders with strong science knowledge, a global viewpoint, and local language skills. Angela took a leap and returned to her hometown of Shanghai to lead business development for an early stage contract drug manufacturing organization.
Angela is an enthusiastic fan of digital technology in life sciences. “Big data has enabled personalized medicine, with the technology to link together and analyze data generated about genomics. We didn’t have this digital capability when I was doing research in genetics, but now we can utilize big data to analyze information captured from research in the prior two decades to help shape precision medicine.
Digitalization is also an important enabler of cell therapy, especially autologous cell therapy, where a patient’s own cells are modified, expanded and then returned to the patient’s body. Sample tracking, process control, access control and contamination prevention are all critical to ensure patient safety. Digital components, along with modular technology, help make these possible.”
Some words of advice
It should be no surprise that Angela advises young people at the start of their careers, “Don’t be afraid to try new things...Find any resource you can to ask the questions. Step out of your comfort zone, and have fun.”