Putting STEM to Work – Learning the Critical Process of Preparing Drugs for Clinical Trial

Through the generous support of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, four times a year River Journal publishes the on-site report of a River Towns high school science student who is paired with a Regeneron scientist to experience what it is like to put STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) to work in the real world.   

Allison Lyubomirskaya is a senior at Irvington High School. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Irvington Science Research Program, through which she placed second in the Westlake Science Fair for Environmental/Plant Science in 2019. Allison has been playing guitar since her sophomore year and participated in the J-Rock band at the Shames JCC on the Hudson.

When the recent opportunity to interview a Regeneron scientist was offered to me, I felt ecstatic at the prospect of learning about a STEM field and meeting the individual who built a career in it.  

I knew Regeneron as a prestigious research company that hosted the Regeneron Science Talent Search for students every year, yet I was unsure of the people and jobs that keep Regeneron’s engines going.  

Prior to our meeting, I merely had a rough idea of what Julia Sell does as part of the Preclinical Manufacturing and Process Development (PMPD) team. After talking to her, not only did I learn about her career, and the role that her department plays in bringing drugs to the market, but also about the many opportunities Regeneron offers its employees. 

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Scientist Julia Sell (pictured with Pokey) is a Process Development Associate at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Ms. Sell has been working at Regeneron for four years. In college she was originally interested in environmental science. However, she later decided to look into pharmaceuticals, and fell in love with the field. At first, she worked at GMP Manufacturing for twoandahalf years. When the opportunity presented itself, she was happy to join Regeneron. 

Ms. Sell works as a Process Development Associate in Bioreactor Scale-up and Development, part of the PMPD team. Her primary focus is bioreactors –– devices that support biologically active environments, and in which cells are grown, proteins are harvested, and cellular media are mixed. Her work involves scaling up the bioreactors in order to fit the number of cells grown.  

Her typical day on the job involves working with various bioreactor operations, setting up the bioreactors, preparing and putting cellular media in the bioreactors, and numerous other tasks.  

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When the fully-grown cells are collected and proteins harvested, they are used for various clinical trials concerning different medicines; in fact, Preclinical Manufacturing serves as a bridge between medical trials and manufacturing. Often times, Preclinical Manufacturing, along with Bioreactor Scale-up and Development, serves as the “come through” department for several medical trials at a time.  

When I asked her about any breakthrough accomplishments to which Bioreactor Scale-up and Development had contributed, Ms. Sell described how cells that were tested and grown in bioreactors allowed for the clinical testing and development of several drugs that are on the market today, such as Eylea, which is used to treat diabetic eye disease. 

I asked Ms. Sell what stood out to her during her time at Regeneron.  

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She recalled “a wonderful opportunity” in 2018 to lead a team at one of Regeneron’s main manufacturing sites in Ireland.  

Ms. Sell is active in a number of activities Regeneron offers its employees – including the Diversity, Equity and Outreach Committee, Honor Mentoring Program, and Women In Science and Engineering at Regeneron (WISER) program.  

Ms. Sell’s advice for students considering a STEM career (as I am) is to take advantage of any opportunities offered. She says it will not only help you grow and get better as a person, but will also teach you how to care for others.

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About the Author: Allison Lyubomirskaya