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Doing more with less was brought to life for me

My partner organization, GALVmed, works with key partners to make a sustainable difference in access to animal health products for poor livestock keepers.  As a process engineer from the Andover, Massachusetts facility my six month fellowship in Ethiopia and Kenya is focused on improving the quality and quantity of vaccines produced by selected national laboratories across Africa by providing essential capacity building and upgrading of laboratory equipment, facilities and processes.

Having the experience of spending three months in the Ethiopia labs and two month in the Kenya labs, I can’t help noticing the huge differences in these production labs compared to my Pfizer production facility in the United States.  Within a very short time of my fellowship experience, I have learned from the resilient African lab staff how to do more with less.  I was amazed and impressed how the African labs are still able to achieve and deliver on vaccines despite the need of additional resources, materials, and knowledge.

Kenya lab staff with old incubator in production

I work in a modern, highly automated biopharmaceutical facility in Andover, Massachusetts; it’s one of the biggest and best established in worldwide pharma.  We have large teams of production, validation, quality, engineering, and maintenance staff who monitor and ensure the quality of our products meet FDA guidelines and other regulatory agencies.  Equipment is new and well maintained.  There is a well trained production, engineering and maintenance staff on call in case of emergencies.  In addition, there are spare parts and then spares for the spares in the facility’s inventory room to minimize production downtime.

Ethiopia labs - media prep room

In contrast to my Andover facility, the African labs are outfitted with much less.  The labs are sparsely equipped with machines which are mostly rusty, very old, and not validated.  Equipment eventually runs to failure – preventative maintenance does not exist and few spare parts are in stock.  Most of the processing is done inside laminar flow hoods or inside the production room where air flow, air quality, and temperature are not controlled. There is not sufficient high quality water in the facility and water must be hand carried into most labs.  The few staff working the labs “knows” how to execute the job tasks from experience, but documented training does not exist.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and document control are new concepts to the production staff.  In addition, processes and methods are sometimes verified but not validated.

Pfizer production facility in Lincoln, NE, United States.

The goal of GALVmed’s project is to provide the necessary expertise and equipment in order to expand the labs’ production capacity and improve the quality of the vaccines.  It is my expectation that sharing my expertise will help the lab staff appreciate the value in having newer equipment, expand their knowledge of good manufacturing practices, and actively work together to continue improvement projects even after I have completed my assignment with them.

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