Then and Now: Mark Ayles
May 19, 2022
Last year I marked my 25th work anniversary. While there are many at Pall with longer tenure, this has been long enough to see many changes. Changes in working practices, in the corporation itself, and in the pharmaceutical industry. When I joined Pall Corporation, I had no idea that this would be the case, in fact, I had an expectation that, being heavily regulated, the pharmaceutical industry actively resisted change. I was wrong.
I will admit when I joined, I didn’t know who Pall really was. Only when researching before my interview did I discover Pall were primarily known as filtration specialists. My first role was with our Scientific and Laboratory Services group, evaluating filter performance and investigating failure modes. Through this I became familiar with much of the diverse filtration portfolio, performing manual filter testing and reporting results. I look back and, even though I was there, I still find it hard to believe that reports were hand-written and passed to an administrator to type up, distributed via fax, and filed as hardcopy in large fire-proof safes. There is no more visible example of how technology changes everything we do, from the most basic of tasks upwards. Technology opens doors to more efficient ways to work and to communicate, and it builds new doors to future opportunities with new discoveries and developments.
I didn’t plan to stay long at Pall and the fact you are reading this is proof that I was wrong again. Every year brought new challenges and new opportunities. My roles adapted to match, most notably moving out of the lab and into the field. Here I consider myself privileged to work closely with many of the world's leading drug manufacturers. Learning first-hand about manufacturing challenges from skilled, passionate, and dedicated experts and sharing my knowledge in return. This is one of the few constants across the years. Approached with the right mindset, every day is a school day!
Industry pioneers started the biotech revolution a decade before I joined Pall, but it became commonplace during my time. This has accelerated change. Change driven by the application of new science and innovative technology. Changes to new manufacturing practices such as the adoption and acceptance of single-use manufacturing technology, and a change in the way Pall supports the industry.
To contrast, back then Pall just sold filtration related technology and services. These provided process protection and contaminant controls critical to the quality of the drug products. Now, the ways in which we protect, purify, and support processes extend far beyond filtration. Pall provides technology and services to support the entire drug development and manufacturing process and has provided solutions that help to do this better, faster, and more efficiently. These processes were once dominated by small molecules, egg-based vaccines, or blood plasma derived therapies. These still exist, and are still important, but occupy an increasingly small part of mindshare. Today, the number of therapeutic families, their corresponding manufacturing platforms, and the number of challenges has expanded exponentially. We now think recombinant proteins, monoclonal antibodies and their derivatives, viral vectors, RNA therapies and vaccines, cell and gene therapies. In parallel, Pall has grown far beyond just a ‘supplier’. We are passionate about helping drug developers and manufacturers deliver high quality drugs that can quickly reach patients and change lives and make a genuine difference. This is most evident in our work to help the global response to COVID-19, but the truth is, COVID has just shone a light on what we have been quietly doing for many years. No one person plays more than a miniscule part in that process but, together we can, and often do, help to achieve great things. There is still no greater motivation than even that.
I believe the last 25 years has been a story of change and co-evolution between manufacturer and supplier, and while I have been wrong before, this time I can be confident of at least one thing. The next 25 years will bring more change. Whatever this change is, it will continue to drive and support the availability of new drugs and therapies. Thankfully these change lives.
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