To our alumni:
This alumni corner is set up so that current undergraduate students at Binghamton can find out more about varied careers and paths toward those careers that you have taken. If you are willing to share your experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREGORY PAPASTOITSIS - BS Biochemistry 1985, MA Biology 1997, Ph.D. Biology1990
I currently am the Laboratory Head/Principal Scientist in Protein Production at Syntonix Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, MA. At Syntonix, I lead the development efforts for the leading clinical candidate, an Fc fusion protein, where the Fc part is genetically coupled to the blood-clotting factor, FIX. My responsibilities include development of purification and related analytical methods, and scaling up the purification methods for the production of clinical material under current clinical manufacturing processes (cGMP).
Prior to Syntonix, I worked as a Senior Scientist at Abbott Bioresearch Center in Worcester, MA. At Abbott, I was one of the key personnel responsible for the design and implementation of a second generation manufacturing process for the production of HUMIRA. HUMIRA is a monoclonal antibody against tumor necrosis factor (TNF), approved for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It is Abbott's most successful product launch in its 115-year history. It received FDA approval in December 2002 and is expected to gross upwards of $ 750 million in 2004. Currently it is manufactured at the 6,000 Liter bioreactor scale in Worcester, MA, while the second generation process will be implemented on the 12,000 L bioreactor scale at Abbott's new manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico.
Other prior work experience includes almost five years at Millennium Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA, first as a Scientist and then as a Senior Scientist in the Process Development Department for Biologics. At Millennium, my team took two new molecular entities to initial clinical studies (Phase I). The first molecular entity is a monoclonal antibody targeting a chemokine receptor (CCR2) and is currently in Phase II clinical studies for RA. The second molecular entity is a monoclonal antibody against the Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA). The antibody is chemically linked to a toxin molecule (DM1), which targets microtubule formation. The antibody-DM1 conjugate is currently in Phase I/II clinical studies for the treatment of Prostate Cancer that is not responsive to hormone therapy.
I came to SUNY Binghamton as an undergraduate student from Athens, Greece in August of 1980. Adapting initially to the new environment and independent life challenged my sense of direction and focus. The guidance of the Biology department faculty, and specifically my mentor Karl A. Wilson, helped me immensely to find my way and navigate toward a successful completion of my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
During my studies I gained solid knowledge on protein purification and characterization, expertise that continue to be part of my core science. In the lab I learned the world of legume proteases and their targets, the storage proteins that get cleaved during seed germination. With this knowledge as background, I transferred into the world of mammals first by doing post-doc studies at the Boston University School of Medicine where I examined proteases in Alzheimer disease brains. At that time I realized that I was not patient enough for the discovery world and instead I moved "downstream" to industrial development where I have been working on developing methods on how to manufacture biotechnology drugs. It has been a highly rewarding experience always putting the quality of the medicine and the safety of the patients first.
In SUNY Binghamton I also discovered multi-culturalism. Coming from an ethnically and culturally homogeneous background, I quickly immersed myself in people and cultures from all around the globe. I developed close friendships with students from America, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. The multi-culturalism was a tremendous experience since I learned to understand and appreciate people that I previously had no experience with (and in many cases I came to enjoy some of their great food, after all there are other dishes besides mousaka and spanakopita!!).
I also had the great opportunity to widen my educational horizon by taking great courses in other disciplines such as economics and cinema. After completing eight courses in cinema some of my friends started joking that I was a "biochem major with a cinema emphasis."
SUNY Binghamton had an additional long lasting impact to my personal life since it was the year 1988 when I met Shaunna Harrington, an undergraduate student at the time. She became my beloved companion with whom I share my life with our two beautiful daughters, Zoe and Ennya.
In retrospect, the SUNY Binghamton experience shaped me not only as scientist but also as a human being. It taught me good science but also honesty, compassion, and understanding of others. It was an experience that I always will cherish.
Gregory Papastoitsis can be reached at email@example.com, and now goes by the name Gregory Zarbis-Papastoitsis