Getting Acquired and Growing with Danaher Business System

When Angelica Meyer joined Aldevron in 2016 as a biomanufacturing operator, she didn’t know what the future had in store—for her career, or for the company. Five years later, Aldevron became a Danaher operating company, and today, Angelica is a senior manager leading the new Manufacturing Support and Technology team. Below, she shares what it was like to go through the acquisition—including learning the Danaher Business System of continuous improvement—and why she calls her work “the most rewarding experience of my life.”

What does Aldevron do, and what kind of impact does your work have?

We do contract manufacturing, which means making biologics—plasmid DNA, mRNA and proteins—for our clients. Every project is different because we have clients all over the world and work with them at every stage, from the initial clinical phases all the way through to commercial products. Sometimes we’re taking their existing processes and executing on those, sometimes we’re working with them to develop a new process, and sometimes we handle all of that ourselves.

As far as the impact of our work, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a good example; we supplied the plasma DNA Moderna used for all the different variants of the virus. Getting to be part of that collaboration has been amazing. Normally you don’t get to see a program go from initiation to patients nearly that quickly, but because of the pandemic, it was obviously a very compressed timeline. And the opportunity to contribute to a project that affected every single person in the world—it has been the most rewarding experience of my life, hands down.

Danaher acquired Aldevron not long after the first vaccines rolled out. How has that changed the way you work?

I believed going in that the acquisition would be extremely beneficial for us. That was especially true at that point in the pandemic, because procurement was a nightmare for so many companies, including us. Things were shut down, things were delayed. Before we joined Danaher, trying to get the materials and technologies we needed felt like being alone on one side of a tug-of-war. And then after the acquisition, suddenly we had all these other operating companies we could work with and learn from. Cytiva, Pall—we were able to talk to them about what our next steps should be in a way you never could if you weren’t part of the same parent company. It was an open door for collaboration.

And I think being under the Danaher umbrella was especially appealing for me as someone involved in tech—my role isn’t within the R&D department, but my team does handle process development and biomanufacturing engineering; we sort of bridge manufacturing and R&D. So to join a company that’s so well-known for investing in development and gain all this potential to do new things—that was exciting.

What about your introduction to the Danaher Business System (DBS)? What was it like to climb that learning curve?

Danaher did bring DBS in relatively quickly, but it never felt invasive or aggressive. It wasn’t, “Learn all these acronyms and terms right away, and sink or swim.” It was, “Hey, here are some tools and structures that can make your work easier and better, and here are some people who can help you get those things online.” It was done very thoughtfully—working collaboratively, slowly making adjustments. They really emphasized that DBS is an ever-evolving process. When you have a metric in the red, that doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. It’s about continuous improvement.

I think I was personally predisposed toward DBS because I love troubleshooting and solving problems—that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working in biologics so much; the field always throws you curveballs. But I do think it’s been valuable across the board. Daily Management, for example, is a visualization tool for keeping track of different elements of the business—that’s now pretty ubiquitous across all of the departments at Aldevron.

Can you give us any examples of improvements DBS has helped the team make?

We have been doing a lot of what we call kaizens, which are essentially workshops where you deeply evaluate a process and look for opportunities to streamline it. So far we’ve focused on big-picture issues such as safety programs and batch-record distribution, and we’re working our way down to smaller challenges. Kaizens are very structured, which I think is important—if you don’t have a specific process, it’s hard to know what you’re putting in and what you’re getting out.

There’s also a lot of attention paid to getting the right people in the room. For the kaizen that led to our new “dock to stock” warehouse process, for example, it was critical to include the operators who work on the floor. Our goal was to cut out unnecessary work for them as they checked in materials. Before, we were treating everything the same way regardless of its product impact, which meant spending as much time on things like paper towels as we were on final vials. If you want to solve a problem like that, the operators are your subject matter experts—and then we also include people who work on any processes that process affects.

The process doesn’t end with implementation—it’s kaizen, evaluate, kaizen, evaluate. Our goal isn’t to make everything perfect right now. It’s to continually improve, and as we do, identify other opportunities for improvements. But I can say we’ve already seen great results. Our processes have been streamlined significantly just in this first year within Danaher, and I think that really is because of using the DBS tools.

What are you looking forward to right now regarding your growth and Aldevron’s?

I look forward to every day because I always know I’ll get to help clients advance their clinical programs and reach more patients—but beyond that, Aldevron is so dynamic that I honestly have no idea what’s in store. A year ago, I never would have expected to be in this role; I started as a biomanufacturing operator, and now I’m getting to run a brand-new team.

The same is true of Aldevron itself—I couldn’t have told you when I joined in 2016 that we’d see exponential growth almost every year, but that’s been our trajectory. And I think we’re just getting started; gene therapy is still relatively new in the field. There are a lot of visionary people at this company, and now we have the resources to bring in new technologies, expand the manufacturing we’re already doing and adapt to support innovations in the industry. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how we grow.

Interested in joining Angelica and the rest of the Aldevron team? Check out all open roles across Danaher or join our talent community today.