Meet Raymond D. Skwierczynski, PhD
Senior Director, Pharmaceutical Technology R&D Laboratory
Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Company
When asked how he decided to work in the field of pharmaceutics, Ray lightly laughed and said, “By accident.” He elaborated that he knew he wanted to live in either Chicago or Minneapolis and simply applied to jobs without even looking at the ads. As a recent graduate with a BS in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Ray managed to land a job with the Baxter Health Care Corporation in Chicago. It was at Baxter where Ray met his mentor and determined that he wanted to get a PhD in pharmaceutics.
At Baxter, Ray’s mentor turned out to be his boss, Ray Wood. They bonded over their mutual love of baseball and their shared project of a new IV drug delivery device through which an IV fluid flowed to dissolve a drug that was not chemically stable in a traditional pre-mixed solution. It was because of his mentor that Skwierczynski went on to pursue a PhD in pharmaceutics. Armed with the best advice he was ever given – “You will experience very high highs along with very low lows during graduate school. Enjoy the highs when you get there.”
While in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Ray was funded for three years by AFPE fellowships, including the AFPE Springboard to Teaching award in 1991. The fellowships allowed Ray to focus exclusively on his research instead of being a teaching assistant. The very next year, Ray received the PhRMA Postdoctoral Fellowship in pharmaceutics.
In his current position at Takeda, Ray’s work in the R&D laboratory has presented him with many challenges along with many accomplishments. His leadership skills were put to the test recently while leading a team during the development of ixazomib, an investigational oral drug for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer. The team was tasked with developing an intrinsically unstable molecule and utilized their combined skills in order to solve and overcome the problems that came up along the way. Since then, Takeda has submitted a New Drug Application for ixazomib to the FDA.
Ray has also assisted the Boy Scouts of America with his leadership on the Yankee Clipper Council as the Advancement Committee Chairman for the past three and a half years. His commitment to the Boy Scouts of America is proven – Ray has been an Eagle Scout since 1978, was a camp staff member for four years, and has held leadership positions within the organization since his late teens.
On a personal level, Ray’s passions are his family and running. He is currently training for the New York Marathon on November 1st. Running is a release for him along with spending one on one time with each of his two daughters and his wife via travel. Be it the US Open, Broadway, or relaxing with his wife on the beach, Ray is a devoted father and husband. A final word from Ray in regards to life is this: “You don’t get to where you are alone.” Two organizations who have helped him along the way are AFPE and the Boy Scouts of America, which is why he continues to give back to those causes.
Meet Kristin L. Bigos, PhD
Lieber Institute for Brain Development
As an undergraduate, Kristin (Kristi) Bigos was pre-med until she had a summer job in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Kristi saw research as more challenging, affording more opportunity ultimately to change outcomes. She chose to pursue a PhD in Clinical Pharmaceutical Sciences, melding the translational aspects of investigating new treatments in the lab with actually working with patients.
Kristi is Principal Investigator of Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetics at the privately-funded Lieber Institute for Brain Development, which is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, at Johns Hopkins. Kristi’s lab tests current and novel drugs for psychiatric disorders, specifically schizophrenia, using functional MRI imaging. It also uses genome-wide association (GWA) studies to understand why different patients have different drug responses, focusing on differences in drug metabolism.
At the Lieber Institute, Kristi met the huge challenge of setting up an entirely new lab for a newly-established institute with perseverance and commitment. She likens science to a marathon: the work is hard, with long hours. Often, experiments yield unexpected results, the hypothesis is proven wrong, the paper does not get accepted. But you have to be in it for the long haul, because the potential as well as actual rewards are tremendous. Being privately funded puts her under a different kind of pressure – usually the funding is coming from families who are desperate for a treatment for a child or adult family member. Feeling like she is directly impacting patients’ lives motivates Kristi to produce the best lab work she can.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Kristi was co-advised and mentored by Drs. Robert Bies, PharmD, PhD and Bruce Pollock, MD, PhD, FRCPC. Dr. Bies’ research interests encompass disease modelling, pharmacometrics and quantitative pharmacology, in two primary tracks, applied and methodological. Dr. Pollock is among the 1% most cited authors in the field of geriatric psychiatry. As a postdoctoral fellow, Kristi developed her schizophrenia focus while working in the lab of Dr. Daniel Weinberger, MD, at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Other than this deep-seated interest in the inner workings of brain functions, Kristi enjoys being the mother of an active one-year-old son. Being a mother has required a need for work-life balance and has changed her daily dynamics. She also believes balancing her role as a mother has made her a better scientist, knowing that the work she does contributes to helping other families. Recognizing that only three of the 25 faculty in her department are women, she encourages women to be more confident in their ability to pursue careers in science.
After investing the last three years in setting up her new lab at the Lieber Institute, which has become fully operational during the last six months, Kristi is excited to be launching a new clinical trial to reposition a drug for schizophrenia that currently treats stroke. The small pilot study will last about a year, and Kristi looks forward to initial results coming out in 2015.
Meet Lisa J. Benincosa, PhD
Vice President, Global Head DMPK and Bioanalytical R&D and Deputy Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Hoffman-La Roche Inc.
In high school, Lisa Benincosa admired the work of her local pharmacist and thought the field would be challenging and well-respected. While receiving her bachelor of pharmacy degree from West Virginia University, she participated in a six-week summer research project, much like the opportunity offered by AFPE’s Gateway to Research Scholarship. This experience inspired her to continue her education and pursue a PhD. in pharmaceutical sciences from SUNY at Buffalo. Her AFPE Pre-Doctoral Fellowship enabled her to complete her degree.
Lisa has worked for some of the biggest pharmaceutical powerhouses in the business, including SmithKline Beecham (later GlaxoSmithKline) and Pfizer with a focus on drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK). At Pfizer, she had the opportunity to lead the development of the department of Clinical PK/PD (pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics) that included state-of-the-art modeling and simulation. Under her management, the team grew to 40 researchers, earning her Pfizer’s People Leader Award. Lisa is proud that several members of her group continued to advance their careers as vice presidents at other companies.
Now at Hoffmann-La Roche, Lisa again built and expanded the team of researchers, where she now has managerial and scientific oversight for 80 scientists in New York, Germany, and Switzerland. This team supports early development of molecules, including bioanalytical and immunogenicity assays for preclinical and clinical studies and the assessment of pharmacokinetic properties. This work is included in regulatory submissions such as IND (investigational new drug) and NDA (new drug application) filings with the Food and Drug Administration. Lisa enjoys being involved in the collaboration of multidisciplinary teams of chemists, biologists, toxicologists, physicians, and others who contribute to research and development of new medicines.
Lisa feels privileged to be affiliated with Marilyn Morris, PhD, her mentor at SUNY. Dr. Morris, immediate past president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, instilled in Lisa concepts of scientific thinking which she has leveraged throughout her career. While at SUNY, Lisa had the opportunity to interact with excellent faculty and other experts in the field which provided her the confidence and technical ability to develop her career. After obtaining her degree Lisa worked with William Jusko, PhD, in an industry-academic collaboration that broadened her expertise in PK/PD modeling.
Lisa likes to travel and has appreciated the opportunity to work abroad in Switzerland. She and her husband enjoy visiting their son and daughter who attend her alma mater, West Virginia University. Lisa encourages students and other younger scientists not to compromise on high standards of technical and scientific excellence but also to recognize and accept when it may be time to move forward to the next step when the complete answer remains elusive.
Meet Phil Douglass, PhD
Clinical Genomics Manager
Phil Douglass is at the intersection of science and business. As a leader in Agilent’s Genomics group, his business appointments take him to points across the U.S. and in Latin America, traveling extensively to partner with thought leaders in genomic research. With more than twelve years at Agilent, Phil is responsible for managing a team of product specialists who sell and support the company’s genomic product portfolio in the clinical research marketplace. He possesses the scientific background to guide researchers in the proper use of genomic tools such as microarrays, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), advanced instrumentation, software, and other solutions that are crucial in the understanding of disease and in the development of new cures and treatments.
Since becoming an AFPE pre-doctoral fellow in 1999, Phil has taken advantage of the many opportunities the fellowship afforded him to experience meaningful interactions with researchers in the pharmaceutical field. First hired by Agilent as an Application Engineer immediately following completing his PhD at the University of Kentucky, he deepened his expertise in molecular biology and genomics, specifically in the emerging fields of microarrays, microfluidics and NGS. This coincided with the landmark sequencing of the Human Genome, and his work at Agilent greatly benefited from this milestone in science. A quick learner, he followed a steady progression of roles with increasing responsibility and grew his knowledge in the business side of the company beyond the research lab. Now, he is elated to hear about researchers successfully publishing using Agilent’s tools, in the broader public space as well as scientific circles.
Phil developed his scientific way of thinking by following the lead of mentors at the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy, and through his involvement with integrative biology collaborations at the forefront of Pharmacy, Chemistry, and Chemical/Materials Engineering. UK’s top faculty encouraged him to come up with innovative ideas and multiple solutions. According to Phil, having come from the research lab, he understands the needs and frustrations one has with technology vendors. “Customers are always first,” and it’s important to listen first, be responsive to their needs, the overall marketplace, and the funding environment in which his clients operate.
Phil, who continues to educate both customers and internal clients about Agilent’s genomic research solutions, would like to have a hand in mentoring students at his alma maters (in addition to both an M.S. and Ph.D. from Kentucky, Phil holds a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Penn State University). He encourages others to set goals and work hard to achieve them and to take advantage of opportunities to travel. He also believes effective networking is vital and says younger scientists must leave their comfort zones and reach out to forge alliances.
Meet Marijke Adams, PharmD, PhD
MH Adams & Associates, Inc.
Who could have guessed that Marijke Adams’ first real job as a teenager working in a drug store would ultimately lead her to a rewarding career as a pharmaceutical scientist? During that first job, the pharmacists trained her as a pharmacy technician, and in 10th grade Marijke decided that she wanted to go to pharmacy school. After working as a hospital pharmacist for a few years and discovering that she loved teaching when she had the opportunity to help a friend teach pharmacology for an allied health professions class, she grew restless and knew it was time to pursue further education in the field.
In the early 80s when PharmD programs had just started, Marijke enrolled in the PharmD/PhD program at Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University. She was stunned, honored, and elated when she received an AFPE pre-doctoral fellowship, which provided a huge boost to her self-confidence. With a “Springboard to Teaching” award coming next from AFPE, her desire to teach and secure a faculty position was cemented. But her career took an unexpected turn.
Marijke learned of a perfect opportunity to combine and capitalize on her clinical and pharmaceutical background when a faculty member told her of a position as a pharmacokinetic specialist at G.D. Searle & Company, now part of Pfizer. When she met with Searle’s Dr. Jim Longstreth, she was fascinated and intrigued by the field of pharmaceutical research and development. Within a few months, Dr. Clifford Siporin hired Marijke as a Scientific Affairs Associate, where she gained invaluable broad-based experience in pharmacokinetics with Dr. Jim Longstreth, toxicology with Dr. Patricia Frank, and clinical drug development. This breadth of experience enabled her to make significant contributions to a small company and led her to work with Dr. Gene Cefali at Kos Pharmaceuticals, now a subsidiary of AbbVie Inc.
Preferring to work with small companies, Marijke now considers herself blessed to be an independent pharmaceutical consultant, drawing from her clinical pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences background. Inspired by her mentors – Drs. Longstreth, Frank, and Siporin – she provides services in pharmacokinetics (study design, data analysis) and regulatory writing (eg, clinical protocols and study reports, Investigator Brochures, regulatory briefing documents).
Marijke includes in her keys to success her innate curiosity and love of work. She is inspired and thrilled when she sees a promising new compound that will meet an unmet need for a patient. Her personal philosophy comes from her grandmother, who gave her a cross-stitch sampler that read, “Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” Marijke continues to give back to the pharmaceutical field by serving on AFPE’s Board of Grants and as a generous donor.
Meet Michael DeCoske, PharmD
Associate Chief Pharmacy Officer
Duke University Hospital
With a strong aptitude for science and math, Michael became interested in pharmacy as a potential profession during career day in high school. Later, while attending Duquesne University in the PharmD program, Michael received an AFPE - ASHP Gateway to Research Scholarship in 2005. The research he conducted with Aleem Gangjee
, PhD, Professor of Medical Chemistry, exposed Michael to research with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which have in the years since become an important therapy in caring for patients with cancer. From this experience, Michael knew he wanted to pursue a role in oncology. While the Gateway research experience gave Michael the foundation for understanding the mechanism of drug action, he learned that the patient care side of pharmacy was a better fit for his personality than a role that was purely based in pharmaceutical research. In his current career, he relates well to and understands the perspectives of participants across the health-system, from basic scientists and PhDs, to physicians, clinicians, and administrators. He is able to offer both research and patient care experience and enjoys sharing his knowledge and understanding of the total picture to make a difference in the lives of others.
Michael believes that a pharmacist can have a pivotal role in providing excellent care to patients with cancer. For example, during Michael’s residency, a new cancer treatment drug was released which required special approval. He was involved in the entire medication use and patient care process, from ordering the medication, helping the doctor prescribe the medication, compounding the medication which the pharmacy had never previously dispensed, delivering it to the patient bedside, and advising the nurse on how to administer it for the first time. He also talked to the patient about what to expect from the new drug. These high-touch interactions are what drives Michael, who also enjoys working to help patients manage overall medication and treatment costs.
After starting as a coordinator of pharmacy services, Michael was promoted to his current role as Associate Chief Pharmacy Officer at Duke University Hospital. Here, he oversees a talented team of pharmacists and technicians who work in outpatient clinics or in one of six outpatient pharmacies (retail and infusion). He is responsible for medication management throughout the Duke University Hospital clinics. He was honored to participate in the building of two brand new pharmacies in the state-of-the-art Duke Cancer Center in 2012.
Michael has relied on a number of mentors for unbiased career advice and guidance. They have included: Paul Bush
, PharmD, MBA, FASHP, BCPS Chief Pharmacy Officer at Duke University Hospital; Sara J. White
, MS, FASHP, former Director of Pharmacy at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and Clinical Professor at the University of California; Toby Clark
, R. Ph., M.Sc., FASHP, former professor of pharmacy practice and director of hospital pharmacy services at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center and College of Pharmacy; and Chris Fortier
, PharmD, FASHP, Chief Pharmacy Officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, among several others.
Now married, Michael says he continues to grow and improve himself while helping patients and staff to establish systems that provide an excellent experience to patients. He credits his enthusiasm, professional curiosity, and optimism with his success in pharmacy administration. His research experience taught him that repeated trial and error are often required in order to find solutions and improve a process. He advises others to treat everyone with respect, invest in relationships, and create and leverage a broad professional network.
Meet Alice Clark, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs
University of Mississippi
What do you get when you mix biology and chemistry? For Alice Clark, it’s inspiration. Clark’s distinctive curiosity led her to attain a PhD in pharmacognosy, made possible by an AFPE fellowship. More than just the funding, AFPE’s support was a statement of others’ confidence in her abilities that would instill in her a strong dedication to the pursuit of scientific research – and the desire to help others achieve the same feeling of purpose and support.
In her current role as Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Mississippi, Clark is responsible for economic development, federal funding, and technology transfer, and also serves as the primary spokesperson for research. She enjoys the diversity of culture and thought that is essential to the higher education environment. During her career, she has celebrated the skills and capabilities of others and believes in the importance of helping people build their strengths. She continues to find that “the world is full of extremely talented people.” She believes the greatest challenge people face is to recognize and harness their own creativity.
Clark’s motivation was deeply influenced by her mother, who instilled in her the value of helping others succeed by creating a culture and environment where people can be their best. Along with her highly collaborative husband, Clark views her mother and sisters as mentors who encourage her to find the good in every person and situation and to seek out opportunities to learn. Many people have made a positive difference in her life, and she strives to emulate the traits she admires.
For Clark, the future holds the discovery of new ways to create the next generation of scientists. It is a fantastic day when she can help a student succeed. She wants students to be prepared to work as a team and think of their ideas in the context of the bigger world. She hopes they will see why learning from one’s mistakes is so important. She offers this advice: “The key to happiness is embracing change and becoming a better person. Learn to recognize and appreciate your own creativity and turn it into valuable solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Curiosity and a love of learning are the first steps to meeting life’s challenges.
Meet Laura Bonifacio, PharmD, PhD
Associate Director, Early Drug Development
Furiex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Driven by a fire inside her to solve healthcare problems and have meaningful impact. That is how Laura Bonifacio describes herself and her progression from being selected for the Fred Eshelman – AFPE Pre-Doctoral Fellowship to actually working with Dr. Eshelman at Furiex Pharmaceuticals. Since first meeting him in pharmacy school, Laura says Dr. Eshelman changed her life. She learns something new from every interaction with her mentor, who told her, “pick a path, build your resources, and you will have choices.”
Laura has always loved science and healthcare and is delighted that her career enables her to combine the two to work on improving the quality of life for others. At Furiex, she designs and manages drug development from early discovery through clinical development. She also assesses preclinical and clinical data for possible in-licensing opportunities and generates related development plans.the quality of life for others. At Furiex, she designs and manages drug development from early discovery through clinical development. She also assesses preclinical and clinical data for possible in-licensing opportunities and generates related development plans.
Besides her mentorship by Dr. Eshelman, Laura has also been shaped by a medical mission to the Philippines, the births of her three children, and the unexpected death of her brother-in-law at the age of 34. She embraces each day as a gift and an opportunity to exert a positive impact on people’s lives. Inspired by the way Dr. Eshelman has believed in her and her ability to achieve goals, she now shares her motivation with others, contributing to the establishment of a professional mentorship program for graduate students at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here, Laura tells students that every aspect of life has positives and negatives, that “opportunity is what you make of it. Consider how the decision you make today will broaden or narrow your options in the future.”
Pharmacy Student, 2005
Assistant Professor of Research, 2014
University of Michigan
Meet Daniel L. Hertz, PharmD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Research
University of Michigan
Dan Hertz learned from his mother that he would be better able to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities if he made each day count. After she died of breast cancer, he committed himself personally to a career in cancer treatment and care. Inspired by hearing Dr. Judah Folkman speak at a conference, Dan realized the power that one person can have on improving patient care. He chose the pharmaceutical field to follow in the footsteps of his father, who owned and operated an independent pharmacy.
An AFPE “triple awardee,” Dan received a Gateway to Research Scholarship in 2005, an AFPE-Rho Chi First Year Graduate School Fellowship in 2008, and a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in 2010 and 2011. Now in his first year of a three-year contract at the University of Michigan, he has learned to develop and evaluate his own ideas to prioritize those aspects of patient care that will be most impactful to the health of the patient. His expertise is in cancer pharmacogenetics, individual cancer therapy, genetic predictors, and treatment-specific factors that impact toxicity.
Dan credits his first mentor, Dr. Patrick Sinko at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University, with instilling him with excitement about contributing to pharmaceutical research. After connecting with the University of North Carolina’s translational research program, Dan met his second mentor,Dr. Howard McLeod, a Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy, who gave him unparalleled opportunities to present and publish his work in high-profile venues. “A fantastic mentor,” McLeod even helped Dan land his current role at Michigan, where Dr. Vicki Ellingrod provides the mentorship necessary for Dan to establish an independent research program and successfully transition into an academic research career.
Dan is motivated by making discoveries that improve patient care and health, mentoring students who share his passion, interest, and ability, and celebrating the success of colleagues who advance the profession. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling to join friends for theater, live music and comedy concerts, and camping. Looking ahead, AFPE expects Dan will continue to lead an independent, novel, cutting-edge, and impactful research program that turns personalized medicine into practice for the benefit of the patient.
Dan’s advice to others includes “Do everything you can today. Don’t wait until the last minute, or you will miss out on opportunities that come your way.”