In an industry driven by scientific breakthroughs and new drug discoveries, Anne-Cécile Potmans and her Fast Trak team are helping Cytiva customers who manufacture life-saving drugs make their processes better and faster. Below, Anne-Cécile reflects on what brought her to Danaher, explains some of the exciting projects Fast Trak is tackling, and shares what she does to encourage creativity on the team.
I’m the general manager for the Fast Trak organization within Cytiva, an operating company that’s part of Danaher’s Life Sciences platform. Cytiva supports customers who research and manufacture pharmaceuticals, and Fast Trak’s role in that work is threefold. We offer training and education to help our customers upgrade their bioprocessing skills and processes, we optimize their processes to address any challenges they’re facing with drug process development, and we handle what’s called “bridge manufacturing,” producing materials for use in clinical trials. The therapies our customers are creating will save lives, so our goal is to help get them to the market as quickly and safely as possible.
I’m an engineer by training, and I started my career as a management consultant in France, working for companies in the biopharma and biotech space. After six years there, my husband and I decided to move to Sweden—my husband is half-Swedish—thinking we’d just try it out. But we’ve been here for 10 years now.
My work is definitely a reason we’ve stayed; so is Scandinavian culture, which I really respect for equally valuing men and women—both at home and at work. When we moved, I joined GE’s Life Sciences division, which is now Cytiva, and I’ve had many opportunities over the years to take on more responsibility and build new skills. Most recently, I was part of a four-year leadership accelerator at GE similar to Danaher’s General Management Development Program, which taught me a lot not just about leading a team, but about the companies we work with.
I took the Fast Trak GM role after my last rotation in that program, about a year ago now, and then continued in the role once we officially joined Danaher and became Cytiva.
I think we were all excited leading up to the acquisition, but it’s still been incredible to see everything this team has accomplished in just a few months—especially in the midst of a global pandemic. We’re simultaneously launching new products, supporting COVID-19 research, and completely rebranding the company. I don’t know of many companies that could produce such results under these circumstances, but we are fortunate to have some really amazing people at Cytiva.
Two things: collaboration and culture. Sharing ideas between teams is critical to what we do, because even getting to the same outcome will take much longer if we’re working in silos. Fast Trak is a global organization—we have locations in China, the US, EMEA, India, and Korea—so we hold regular technical meetings with associates from each site to make sure we’re learning from each other by sharing what’s working and the challenges we’re facing. We also collaborate across functions, so commercial, product management and R&D are all working together to improve our customers’ products and processes.
Fibro chromatography, a new technology Cytiva is developing, is a recent example. It combines high capacity with high flow rates, which substantially reduces purification times in research and product development, and provides a single-use solution for manufacturers. Our EMEA organization took the lead, driving the analytical work and coordinating efforts, while our team in Korea made new monoclonal antibodies for each center to test. And while R&D developed the new technology, Fast Trak is developing a service to help our customers evaluate and implement this powerful tool.
These advancements are possible thanks to the synergy between teams, as well as the constant support of Research and Development and Product Management.
They’re also due to the culture of innovation we’re creating. To me, that’s about making sure team members feel comfortable taking risks. Of course, there are situations where we want to minimize risk entirely—but if you want to do something new, accepting the possibility of failure is part of the job. It’s when we take risks that we make the most important discoveries.
Part of it is the nature of our work. When customers come to us, it’s because they have a problem they haven’t been able to solve on their own—so we know we aren’t going to make much progress if we don’t use our expertise and get creative. And everyone on the team likes a challenge; that’s why we’re here in the first place.
I think it’s also about communication and making sure we celebrate risk-taking. Fast Trak has quarterly awards for team spirit and for execution, but also for innovation. We recognize lessons learned as valuable in and of themselves because they all contribute to the eventual solution.
The company culture supports that mindset, too. For example, there’s a Cytiva program called Innovation Accelerator where employees can pitch creative ideas around a specific theme—the first one was sustainability. And it’s not a theoretical exercise; you have to explain what you’d need in terms of funding and people as part of your pitch, and the ideas that are selected get support. There are six projects in progress so far, and I’m excited to see not only what they accomplish, but how their example encourages even more innovation. It’s a great way to ensure that good ideas get heard and that everyone knows they can make a difference.
I’m excited about learning more tools and processes in the Danaher Business System; I think the continuous improvement approach will be helpful in building efficiency both internally and for our customers. DBS can be daunting, but Danaher’s team has taken a smart approach, introducing us to it gradually so we can build our muscles and focus on the areas that are the highest priority.
Our work on innovative process development never ends, so I’m also looking forward to seeing what advanced technologies such as AI might mean for our work. Of course, most exciting of all is seeing the impact we’re having every day. Fast Trak’s work is a piece of the much larger puzzle. When we improve customers’ processes, they can make and distribute therapeutics that much sooner, and run their clinical trials that much more effectively. And that really does save lives.