Published September 2020
Based in Lexington, MA, and now in the role of Product Operations Lead for rare metabolic disease enzyme replacement therapies, Jennifer started working for Shire in 2009 in the Lexington Roller Bottle manufacturing facility, and after a few years, became Associate Director in Cross Plant Services. Following Takeda’s acquisition of Shire in 2019, she worked as a Change Leader on the Transformation Team at the Alewife plant in Cambridge, MA, before starting in her current role in November 2019.
From Manufacturing to Commercial
I am currently the Product Operations Lead for enzyme replacement therapies to treat rare metabolic diseases, and it’s my job to ensure that our manufacturing and supply strategies enable the supply of our drug products to patients around the world. I work cross-functionally with master planning, Biologics Operating Units, Quality, Regulatory and other departments and local operating committees to help build launch strategies in different countries.
Through my tenure, various types of work have offered me the opportunity to develop my expertise in different roles, starting in a manufacturing plant where teamwork is so critical to operations. Now within the commercial organization, I have a global role in which I am deeply involved in various processes taking place in different parts of the world. Before moving to the commercial side, I hadn’t appreciated the full extent of the global scope and reach of our products, and it’s been exciting to discover this through being an active part of that process.
Every day brings something new, and I love facing fresh challenges, learning new things, and having to leave my comfort zone. Mastering novel approaches and overcoming the many hurdles I’ve faced has helped me evolve as a person, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to grow with the company.
Having First-Hand Experience of the Challenges Patients Face
When my daughter Emily was 5, she was diagnosed with a very rare type of arthritis called systemic-onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also known as Still’s disease, a full-body arthritis and inflammation. By the time we received the diagnosis, she was no longer able to walk or even hold a pencil. All of her joints were swollen; she had high fevers and was sick all the time. As is often the case with rare disease patients, it took us many years to find the right treatment plan. Happily, she has been in remission for over two years and is now in her second year of college.
After taking care of Emily full-time for eight years, I decided I wanted to work for a company with a rare disease portfolio so that I could help other people facing similar challenges, and I also wanted to work for a company with a patient-first focus. I feel now that it was inevitable that I would work here at Takeda – it is the right place for me.
I’ve been with the company for 11 years, and during that time both the company and I have been through many changes. The company’s core value of “integrity” is something that really resonates with me. Having the opportunity to see the patients, and the positive impact we have on people’s lives, has always been near and dear to my heart. Having first-hand experience of the kind of challenges that my daughter and our family went through, I always have a strong sense of compassion for our patients, which I rely on to keep myself and my team motivated.
Giving Back and Spending Time with Patients and Families
The one aspect of Takeda that I am inspired by the most is the dedication to patients around the world. There are clear examples through the CSR initiatives, employee resource groups, and commitment to the community through programs such as Takeda Cares in the U.S. I personally do a lot of volunteer work to support patients and I’m proud to work for a company that shares the same values.
One of the projects close to my heart is the SeriousFun camps, particularly the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Connecticut. The SeriousFun camps were set up to offer children struggling with different forms of cancer and rare diseases an escape from the fear, pain, and isolation of their medical condition, offering opportunities for them and their families to have fun. I’ve volunteered at the camp as a cabin counselor, a Family Pal, and even an archery instructor. It gives me a chance to interact one-to-one with patients and families, and it’s a fantastic experience to be immersed in camp activities and see the emotional growth of the young patients and their families over the week.
New Standards in the Way We Work
Today, we are facing many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. We transitioned to remote work where possible very quickly and established teams dedicated to safeguarding supply chains to minimize potential disruptions to patients. We always need to be in regular contact and keep ahead of international developments that could affect our packaging plants, worldwide distribution networks, and international couriers shipping the treatments to patients in need. It’s also vital to continue important outreach efforts with patient groups, advocacy teams, doctors, and patients to keep them informed, listen to their needs and reassure them that we are acting to ensure that the products are going to get there, despite disruptive world events.
“Bloom where you are planted”
I’ve learned a lot and have had so many different opportunities during my career, but whenever anyone asks me where I see myself in five years, I have to tell them that I don’t know but that I just want to be happy wherever I am. I always say that I bloom where I’m planted; whatever opportunity I’m given, I flourish in it. I always try to be happy with a smile and a laugh–I simply want to bring happiness and joy to people’s lives.