MAN OH MAN…This summer was one for the books! In terms of experience and the knowledge I gained, I feel extremely blessed for the opportunity I was given at Cook Pharmica. The exposure to pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical industry was so fascinating and eye opening. While it wasn’t a piece of cake to understand, I definitely enjoyed learning and being challenged in my Project Management internship experience.
I remember the first few days in my internship I felt extremely overwhelmed, out of place and in over my head. Here’s what I knew going into my internship— Cook Pharmica made drugs for other companies and the place was extremely clean. (We couldn’t eat anywhere outside of the cafeteria, the outside tables and 2 meeting rooms in the building to ensure bugs/bacteria/microorganisms were kept to a minimum in the building! As a snacker, I was worried I would be hungry all day lol. But no worries, I soon found that most people took breaks outside or in the cafeteria and I could eat my snacks on break!).
The first week I received information about what the internship would include, my big project assignment and experienced client conference calls/meetings with the functional teams. My supervisor was extremely helpful and kept asking if I had any questions. My biggest question was….is there some huge manual about Cook, the various department operations and the industry I should have read before hand?? She said no…but I was still skeptical for the first two weeks until I filled in the puzzle pieces of the industry and needs for my project.
The next few weeks I was filled with knowledge about Cook Group, Bill Cook, Cook Pharmica, French Lick and the biopharmaceutical industry. Cook Group had over 100 interns this summer and all the interns were given an opportunity to network, learn about Cook and its history during cultural events.
I was fascinated by the story of Bill Cook, the founder of Cook Group. He did more (way, way more) than just create medical devices and companies; he was a great philanthropist who gave back to the communities of Bloomington and Southern Indiana. Most notably, French Lick Indiana, and we were given an opportunity to tour the property. The French Lick Hotel and West Baden are grand buildings with beautiful architecture and history. The town of French Lick wouldn’t be there today without Bill Cook. Bill Cook even started his own aviation company for the employees to utilize on business travel. Those are just a few of the things I admire Bill Cook for, but it’s truly inspiring to see the entirety of what Bill Cook, one person created and accomplished!
The group of interns at Cook Pharmica had engineering, chemistry, biology, business and biomedical backgrounds from Rose Hulman, Purdue University, Bowling Green, Ball State University and Indiana University. Whenever I had questions on science and the processes that occurred at Cook Pharmica, they were always so helpful in explaining and answering my questions. They were all so open, smart and easy to get along with—I will forever be thankful for being surrounded by such motivated and intelligent individuals!
On to what Cook Pharmica really does…have you ever wondered what it took to make your medicine you take everyday? Whether it’s for a cold, a nasty virus, allergies, anxiety, depression or birth control- it probably took about 10-20 years to get to the market and your hands! From research, to clinical trials, to FDA approval, and manufacturing, there is a lot of work behind the medicine you take everyday.
Cook Pharmica focuses solely on making drug substances (think liquid, not pills) and drugs products- syringes for other companies. Cook Pharmica and pharmaceutical CMO’s undergo much documentation for the drugs to be manufactured within their facility. The tiniest little details on the drug recipes are required on paper, along with the types of equipment, risks and way more are included in these documents to comply with the FDA. Once the recipe and processes are approved, manufacturing can begin…this is the cool part…I will try to make this a simple explanation for all to understand without science knowledge.
- Cook Pharmica is given a vial of frozen cells. (A vial is a skinny tube that you might use in a chemistry class. The cells are the API/active pharmaceutical ingredient that needs to grow for more medicine to be made.)
- The cells are thawed and put in a bigger container with extra ingredients (this can be salt, sugar, other needed bacteria for cells to feed on). The cells eat these ingredients and grow/split and create more API.
- Once the cells grow more they are “passaged”– transferred into a bigger container until they reach the desired container size the company wants.
- Once the cells grow enough API, the cells die and the API is harvested (gathered) into another container.
- This container with the API is put in a huge machine and separates it (the medicine) into tiny amounts on a vial line with thousands of vials.
- The vials are then capped, and inspected by scientists to verify everything looks right.
- The vials are then packaged, sent and off to wherever the client/company wants them sent and then go to doctors and patients to use!
Did i lose you? No worries if I did, it definitely took a bit to understand myself. There is so much more involved with the process, those are just the very basic steps of what occurs in the manufacturing process.
All in all, my project management internship was an amazing experience. My project focused on creating a standardized process within the department, a case study project to complete with the interns, and then a capstone project presentation. I definitely enhanced my communication, problem solving skills, time management skills and implementation of effective presentations though out the summer. The employees of Cook Pharmica were also wonderful and never treated us as “just an intern.” They treated me as if I were at the same level as them, included me in their meetings and assisted me with my project needs.
What am I doing now? Well, I have one more year left at Indiana University, and I started this week! This fall I will be job searching and hoping to find a position to take after I graduate. The goal is to find a position in the Health or Pharmaceutical industry in a Management or Marketing position. I’m sure you will be updated on my search and the process.
And if you made it this far into my post, thanks for reading and I will be back next week with some health, fitness and nutrition tips for full-time workers and students! (: