March 16, 2020, was Catarina Goncalves’ first day as a new employee at Bristol Myers Squibb on the Quality Assurance Operations team. Eager to return to work after a one-year maternity leave with her newborn son, Goncalves that day also learned that, due to COVID, she and her colleagues would begin a new work schedule — every week, half the team would work on-site, and the other half from home and then switch.
“My team and I are responsible for doing all of the review and release of manufactured batches of the company’s medicines, and our processes include steps that must be done in person, like obtaining signatures and having a qualified person review and release the product to market,” she said.
Because of the business-critical nature of this work, Goncalves and her team worked in shifts until May 2020, when every returned to site full time.
“For me, it was very good news, I was very motivated to work and our management always communicated with us and worked hard to ensure our safety,” she said. “I have never felt fear about workplace safety.”
Anthony Haskell, director of Global Capital Project Engineering
In early 2020, Bristol Myers Squibb began construction of a new 244,000-square-foot facility within the Devens campus to support clinical and commercial manufacturing of cell therapies. The Devens site supports process development, clinical manufacturing and commercial manufacturing for biologics medicines. Every day, in his then-role as associate director, project manager, Anthony Haskell was there.
“It was determined by the company and local/state regulations that the expansion project was essential,” said Haskell, who is now director of Global Capital Project Engineering.
At the start of the pandemic, when so much about the virus was still unknown, being at work could be tense, Haskell explained. “But the Devens site did a great job with communications and keeping us up to date with what was going on and provided what we needed in terms of masks and testing.”
Videos telling the stories of some of the patients who have benefitted from the company’s medicines played on monitors throughout the site and helped keep spirits high, Haskell said. “That reminded my team why we were here, even though we knew it was going to be hard. Those patient stories really helped inspire everyone.”
The cell therapy facility is slated for occupancy in September, with engineering runs set to begin at the end of the year. Right on schedule.