Using Biotech to Give Back and Look Forward

As vice president of product development for Catalent and a member of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), Vic Vinci looks to motivate future generations of scientists and engineers — and maybe hire a few of them.

Vic Vinci sees his role on the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) as a way to pay it forward to the next generation of science and engineering leaders. During his career, he’s leaned on mentors who guided him on his own professional journey. Now, as the vice president of product development for Catalent Biologics, Vinci enjoys returning the favor.

The role does have a mutual benefit for Catalent and Northwestern as well. Vinci's looking for future employees, and he's found multiple at Northwestern in the past.

"We're looking for talent, and we cannot find enough talent for all our needs," Vinci said. "MBP is one of the singular programs that actually brings the right blend of biology, biotechnology understanding, engineering principles, aspects of business and regulatory affairs, teamwork, and communication in the way the curriculum and projects are set up." 

Vinci sees the importance of that unique blend on a daily basis at Catalent, a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) that provides integrated services, drug delivery technologies, and manufacturing solutions to help other companies launch successful pharmaceuticals, biologics, and consumer health products. Based on publicly available information, Catalent has partnered with many pharma businesses.

Vinci oversees teams at five different Catalent sites in Europe and the US. Vinci also interacts with the company's executive leadership team and keeps it updated on activities and how various projects relate to the overall strategic direction. 

"My day includes connecting with those teams, receiving updates on how projects are progressing, mentoring one-on-ones, discussions about our strategy, and how we are advancing innovation," he said. "I have a lot of fun, and fortunately I work with a lot of talented people, including some students that we have hired over the years from Northwestern."

The work Vinci does has changed dramatically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as  travel has been far less frequent but the fundamental science and engineering is still critical. He has been excited to see how pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have been able to aid in the fight against COVID-19, particularly in terms of the speed multiple vaccines were developed. What normally would have taken eight to 10 years took 18 months, Vinci said, and that was without sacrificing safety, quality, or good manufacturing practices. The challenge Catalent and other companies now face is figuring out if and how that accelerated pace can become the new normal.

"We all have to figure out how we get better at this," Vinci said. "How do we continue to hone the speed that we can work at and ensure quality, and how does this become practical and sustainable as opposed to a heroic journey every time?"

That forward thinking is what he looks for when he hires MBP graduates. Whenever he interacts with MBP students, he encourages them to think about where they will be and what they want to be doing five years down the road. With that mindset, those students are able to tailor their MBP experience and leave better prepared to be the science and engineering leaders the industry needs.

"You want to know all the tools you're using are going to fit into where you're going long term," Vinci said. "If you have an idea of what you want to do and you've thought through how MBP fits that model, you will be rewarded with a program that prepares you well."


McCormick News Article