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Biocon  /  Careers  /  Meet Our Employees  /  Ankur Bhatnagar

Ankur Bhatnagar

Our General Manager, Science & Technology Innovation (SNTI), Ankur talks about how he and his team overcome challenges in designing production processes.

I am thankful to be a part of a strong culture that empowers employees to take ownership.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

I lead a team of scientists and engineers in R & D (research & development) in the Process Sciences function. We are responsible for the process development and scale-up of several programs undertaken by the company.

Can you tell us more about your career at Biocon?

I joined Biocon over 18 years ago as a fresh engineering graduate. There are numerous memories which appear distinct at different stages of my time at Biocon – from making perfect cotton plugs in the lab in my very first week of joining the company, to completing my first experiment successfully. I have been actively involved in the teams that obtained major product approvals for Biocon such as, rh-Insulin, Alzumab™, biosimilars for Trastuzumab, Pegfilgrastim and insulin glargine.

One of my most treasured interactions are the weekly morning coffee meetings with our CMD, for updates on the progress being made on the mammalian cell technology project. We were initially nervous about giving updates because in a new function in the research arena, weekly progress is not a certainty. However, our CMD was extremely patient and encouraging and these meetings became a great source of motivation for the team. In fact, we referred to these meetings as ‘coffee with Kiran’, as opposed to ‘coffee with Karan’!”.

 

Have you ever second-guessed your decision to work at Biocon?

No. In fact, a casual conversation with my father-in-law when I was working on developing the upstream process for insulin, has only reinforced my decision to work here. My father-in-law, who is a doctor by profession, told me that since Biocon had launched insulin at an affordable price, he would now be able to prescribe it to many more patients, whom he could not prescribe it for earlier. What better endorsement can one ask for?

 

Can you pick your favourite day working here?

It really is tough to pick my best day at Biocon. Every single day is a good one, when you see smiling faces around and the incremental progress made every-day towards attaining larger goals. However, if I had to pick one, it would be the day when Biocon & Mylan’s Ogivri, the first Trastuzumab biosimilar in the world, was approved by the USFDA.

 

What kind of challenges do you face?

When it comes to designing production processes, we do face challenges. The scale-up of our first process using mammalian cells was a particularly challenging one. Just prior to scaling up, we got some breakthrough results in the lab that could potentially double the output of the process. Functioning in a highly regulated landscape, we realised that we needed to implement the new scale-up process immediately as we would not get a chance to introduce it later. All our data was with respect to the older process, but we were convinced of the long term positive impact the new process could have for the company. We convinced the senior management to seek approval for the new process, despite having limited data and no prior scale up experience. What stood out for me from this experience, was the manner in which the management showed confidence in my team and supported our proposal.

Equipment and technologies can be bought, but a strong and positive culture can only be built by people.

Do you have a strategy to overcome obstacles you encounter?

Whenever there are challenges, my favourite go-to quote is from the book, The Last Lecture by Jeffrey Zaslow & Randy Pausch, “The brick walls (obstacles) are there for a reason.. to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people, not us.”

 

What would you say is your work philosophy?

My work mantra is to simplify things. I believe that people often make things more complicated by the way they react to or approach a problem. The simple act of thinking before responding, goes a long way. I am a strong advocate of teamwork, for ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships’. Equipment and technologies can be bought, but a strong and positive culture can only be built by people. Biocon is an organisation filled with highly passionate and bright minds, ready to challenge & push the boundaries of science, and develop therapies that change the fabric of global healthcare. I am thankful to be a part of a strong culture that empowers employees to take ownership. Taking ownership, I truly believe, drives employees to go the extra mile and make a difference in whatever they do.

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