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SPOTLIGHT ON: Anson Wu – Deputy Study Director

Anson Wu - Blog Career Progression - BioPharma Services image.

I came to Canada in August 2013, to pursue my bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto. Like many international students, I felt a little lost at first coming to a new country. I was unsure that I had made the right decision until the middle of 2014, when I picked my major in pharmaceutical and analytical chemistry. I graduated from University of Toronto in 2017. 

Once I obtained my degree, I began to think what I should do for a career. Coincidently, the bioanalytical laboratory in Biopharma Services Inc. had an opening for an entry level bioanalytical chemist. I applied and was successfully hired. When comparing myself to my classmates, I am glad that I was lucky to get hired as this was the first job I applied for. 

I later learned that it was my enthusiasm, positive attitude, and willingness to learn that really impressed the hiring manager! I was so excited to start working in the bioanalytical laboratory at a contract research organization. The perfect job that made use of my educational background and so, my journey at BioPharma Services began!

Aug. 2017 – Oct. 2018 Bioanalytical Chemist
Nov. 2018 – Mar. 2019 Validation Chemist
Apr. 2019 – Mar. 2022 R&D Chemist
Apr. 2022 – Present R&D Chemist / Deputy Study Director

I joined BioPharma Services in August 2017 and, at the beginning, I was so excited and passionate to see what a laboratory in the pharmaceutical industry was like.  I must admit that I did not have much of a concept on what a bioanalytical laboratory was, or what Bioavailability/Bioequivalence (BA/BE) studies were at that time, but I was there to learn and find out as much as I could. 

Furthermore, I am glad that Dr. Nicki Hughes, Senior VP Bioanalytical Laboratory, and the team provided a lot of support and extensive training about bioanalysis and its part and importance in clinical research. 

After a month of training, I was capable to begin my assigned duties performing study sample analysis. In parallel, the bioanalytical lab management team also allowed me to work with and learn from the more senior validation chemists assisting in the more technically challenging bioanalytical method validation projects. I treasured this precious opportunity and begin to learn from the senior chemists. 

Throughout the year, they taught me a variety of extraction techniques, and I gained a better understanding of the detailed experiments that are required to validate a bioanalytical method.  This made me feel more comfortable and confident working on the bench.  Overtime, the management team of the bioanalytical lab allowed me to work on validation projects independently. 

In September 2018, there was a vacancy in the lab for a validation chemist, which is when I decided to take a leap forward. I walked into Dr. Nicki’s office and told her that I am interested in being considered for the position. At first, she was amazed by my initiative to consider taking on the opportunity seriously. I explained that, even though I was not the most senior of bioanalytical chemists applying for the position, the encouragement, positive feedback I had received since I joined Biopharma that I felt ready for this additional challenge. 

Finally, I was offered the position as Validation Chemist in November 2018 and at that time explained that it was the extra time and effort that I independently put in to learn the role was what got me the more senior position.  This position has guided me to learn about bioanalytical method validation in the industry and start to have an idea on the different regulatory guidance from the different agencies. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to keep moving forward!

6 months later, another opportunity came up as the lab for a Research and Development (R&D) Chemist working on both validation and method development under the guidance of one of the principal research Scientists. I took the initiative and mentioned I would like to take the chance and be considered for this opportunity. The management team hesitated at the beginning about my application, but acknowledged that they saw me as an individual with a lot of knowledge and potential and saw this as just as important as industry experience. 

The road from bioanalytical chemist to the R&D chemist was not easy, it was hard work!. Every day I spent time after my regular assigned work, reading research papers, textbooks, shadowing LC-MS operations and communicating with the principal research scientist. I learned the principles behind each step in developing a bioanalytical method (extraction, chromatography, and LC-MS/MS detection). 

From there, I gained more advanced understanding of the theory behind extraction techniques, the rationale behind the selection of the calibration range of a bioanalytical method and more about what Phase I and BA/BE studies were, and why having the right method is important. I assisted in developing many bioanalytical methods that were successfully validated.  I also had the opportunity to develop my own methods independently. This brought with it many challenges and long hours solving problems; this helped my troubleshooting skills improve immensely. 

In this role, I also assisted and learned from the study director and laboratory operation manager in scheduling, as well as training and assisting other chemists. It was a long journey, but my passion kept driving me forward. Also, in combination, were the precious opportunities that the lab allowed for my career growth. 

There is always a dawn after the darkness, just be prepared to stay motivated and keep moving forward

Anson Wu

Another turning point for my career in BioPharma Services came in December 2021 during a discussion in my annual performance review. I was eager to learn more, so I asked about what other career development opportunities might be possible.

In April 2022, the management team offered me a great opportunity for personal growth, by adding to my responsibilities the dual role as deputy study director. Over the past several months, and after additional coaching and training, taking on the deputy study director role, has strengthened my leadership skills, allowed me to be more confident in decision-making and in communicating with other colleagues within the lab and from different departments.

I sometimes doubted myself, that I was not doing a good job, but the positive feedback and recognition from the management team and other departments encouraged me a lot. I am now more confident in this leadership role and have a better understanding of the additional challenges this brings, but support (if needed) is only a conversation or a phone call away! 

Over the past five years, the Bioanalytical Laboratory team in BioPharma Services nurtured me like a sapling, and, just like a sapling needs irrigation, the various of opportunities that I have been given in my career have guided me to be successful and bloom like the cherry blossom. I worked hard, but acquired a lot of skills (technical, communication and people) along the way.

A success story is not a coincidence, as it takes time to brew. It begins with the potential, commitment, and dedication within a person plus the mentorship provided from management to strive and become an integral member of a successful team.

Find out why BioPharma might be the right partner for you! Learn more about BioPharma Services and the wide array of bioanalytical services we provide.

BioPharma Services, Inc., a Think Research Corporation and clinical trial services company, is a full-service Contract Clinical Research Organization (CRO) based in Toronto, Canada, specializing in Phase 1 clinical trials 1/2a and Bioequivalence clinical trials for international pharmaceutical companies worldwide. BioPharma has clinical facilities both in the USA and Canada with access to healthy volunteers and special populations.

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