Hello, my name is Aasish Pradhananga and I am a biochemist working on gene and cell therapy. I am from Nepal and first came to the United States as an international student to pursue my dream of studying abroad. I arrived with two large suitcases and even larger dream to pursue my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
I was inspired by my big brother, who is a remarkably successful clinical biochemist, to pursue a degree in biochemistry. When I was in middle school, I used to see my brother travel around the world to attend conferences and give presentations. I wanted to follow him and become a biochemist myself as I, too, wanted to travel around and contribute to science.
During my junior and senior years in college, I was fascinated by how we can use cell therapies to treat rare diseases and it was then I decided to join the biotech industry to contribute to advance cell therapy treatments. After graduation, I joined a biotech company where I worked as an analytical method validation analyst. It was at this time that I was able to learn a lot about the work and get familiar with different analytical instruments used in the industry. I worked at this company for a year and was able to leverage my knowledge and industry experience to land myself a role at a prominent biotech company advancing allogeneic cell therapies for cancer and solid tumors.
Currently, I am working as a method development associate, and I am very much focused on developing in vitro assays to evaluate the potency of investigational drug products. I have expertise in developing in vitro assays to characterize and release cell therapy drug products and am always eager to talk about the future of cell and gene therapy. I consider myself fortunate to be working with the experts and pioneers in gene editing platforms and I hope to contribute, from my part, to advance cell therapies in patients and make a positive impact on their life.
Biotech industry is a very fast paced and competetive industry where you not only get to contribute ti groundbreaking discoveries but also get a sense of purpose by addressing some of society’s most critical issues. There are a lot of career paths to choose from once you get an understanding of your passion and your interest. From manufacturing to product release and stability testing, you can choose which areas you want to work on and make decisions based on your interest. Below are some of the career path that I beleive would make the most sense. I would note that if you do not feel comfortable at your work and find something more interesting, you should not hesitate to switch to that department as work life balace is very critical aspect of life.
As an analytical development associate, most of my work is focused on designing, optimizing and validating analytical techniques to evaluate investigational cellular therapy products. This role requires an extensive background in analytical techniques and instrumentation. Below are some of the technical skills that I use most often at my workplace.
While most people focus on technical skills, soft skills are sometimes overlooked at the workplace. You should not forget that soft skills complement technical expertise, making you more effective and enhance your ability to work and perform. Below are some of the soft skills I constantly use at my workplace.
I graduated right at the peak of the covid pandemic, so it was a very tense moment for me. On one hand I had to worry about not getting sick, and on the other hand I had to worry about securing a job 60 days (about 2 months) past my graduation date to keep my visa status active. Since everything was on lockdown, it was hard for me to even get an interview date. At last, seeing no other way around, I decided to apply to a beverage company as a quality control technician and was accepted for the night shift. I worked there for about six months and after the covid pandemic was slowly starting to settle down, I applied to a biotech company and was accepted for the role of an analytical development validation analyst. The interview process was short when I applied for this role, and most of the questions were related to the working mechanism of analytical instruments.
It was not until I applied to my present work that I got to experience a lengthy interview process. After working at the previous biotech for about a year, I was ready for a change and when I applied to my new job, there were a series of interviews that I had to take part in. First, it was screening from the recruiter and then another screening from the manager. After that, I had to give a panel interview, where people from various teams asked me about my technical expertise. There was another round of interviews from HR, and finally, after all, I got an offer.
I realize how hard it can be to land a job after your graduation and my advice to you would be to reach out to anyone you know in the industry and ask them for their advice and recommendations. Use the career center in your university to prepare yourselves for interviews and take part in mock interviews. I would also suggest using online resources such as LinkedIn to know more about the company you are interested in and better prepare yourselves.
I would tell my younger self not to be afraid of change and do not hesitate to ask questions. I would also tell myself to always have a backup plan in case something does not work out despite all of your efforts. I wish someone had told me earlier that making connections to more people in the industry would be beneficial to my overall growth and that is one thing that I wished I had done when I first started working.
Biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industry exposes you to a wide range of sophisticated technologies to solve major health challenges in society. It is important that you keep up to date with the new instruments being used in the industry. Although working in biotech can be really challenging at times, it will remind you how critical your work is in solving real life issues that is hurting so many people around the world.