Junior Ethan Mickelson reverse engineers complex liposomal drug platform

With a double major in Biochemistry and Biotechnology, junior was able to excel in his internship at Exelead Biopharma as a process development intern.

His role involved reverse engineering a complex liposomal drug platform. Along the way, he authored official GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) documents, which will be used by the company for decades. He made genuine professional connections with people he considers “truly impressive experts in the pharmaceutical industry.”

“This experience had a dramatic impact on me,” Ethan said. “I learned more than I ever could have hoped to about the pharmaceutical industry.”

He was able to observe subfields like Quality Control, Manufacturing, Supply Chain, and Business Development. Before starting his internship, he hoped to gain an understanding of what it was like to work in the industry.

“This is particularly important to me because I am trying to decide whether I want to pursue a career in industry or academia after receiving a Ph.D,” he said. “ Although I have not come to a definitive decision, in speaking to my colleagues who have faced similar issues in their professional careers, I learned a wealth of information that I will be able to use in making a better-informed decision.”

Ethan was able to create his own big picture of the industry — each department is connected to one another. There are many aspects to consider while working on different projects, whether it concerns economics, practicality, scale, et cetera.

“It was an extra challenge that I enjoyed to operate within these parameters,” he said.

Challenges were something Ethan had to get used to.

“Given the nature of my project, a series of experiments, there is the unavoidable promise of at least some failure,” he said. “There were times at which the last of the things I would try would still be unsuccessful. There were times when I was finally successful on the last try.”

It was incredibly rewarding for Ethan to have creative problem-solving thoughts that would lead to the solution.
“It is very easy to put oneself in a box when conducting research and I feel like I gained an excellent combination of persistence, skepticism, and creative problem solving that will make me a significantly better researcher and student going forward,” he said.

By Maureen Langley
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