Continuous Learning, Continuous Growth: Megan Smyth’s Leadership Evolution

Megan Smyth | Senior Team Leader | Almac Sciences
Megan Smyth | Senior Team Leader | Almac Sciences

The landscape of pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries presents complex and innovation-driven challenges, with continual innovation paramount to successfully manufacture new chemical entities (NCEs) and novel drug targets.

Companies like Almac Sciences, part of the Almac Group, recognize this imperative, strategically arming themselves with technologies to synthesize NCEs efficiently at varying scales and with competitive pricing. One such technology driving this mission is flow chemistry, hailed for its adaptability and future-proofing capabilities.

At the helm of Almac’s flow chemistry endeavors stands Megan Smyth, an inspiring leader with a passion for innovation and growth. Megan’s journey with Almac Sciences began as a bench chemist within the Technology Group, where she developed scalable routes to key chiral targets using bio-transformations. Rapidly ascending through the ranks, Megan is now Senior Team Leader, overseeing Custom and Flow Chemistry operations from operational, financial, and business growth perspectives.

Fueled by her commitment to personal and professional development, Megan embarked on an MBA journey while navigating the challenges of a global pandemic. Her dedication paid off with a distinction in 2022, solidifying her position as a future leader within the industry. External recognition came in the form of a prestigious £1.5 M UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leader’s Fellowship, affirming Megan’s potential to shape the next level of research and innovation.

Beyond her individual achievements, Megan is committed to fostering a culture of innovation within her team. She invests in education through mentoring PhD students, supporting STEM programs and providing opportunities for skill enhancement. Megan’s expertise has earned her invitations to speak at conferences worldwide.

Under Megan’s leadership, Almac Sciences continues to push boundaries, driving business innovation and maintaining strategic alignment with future leadership requirements. With her dedication and expertise, Megan is poised to lead Almac Sciences to even greater heights, ensuring UK and Irish competitiveness in the global arena of pharmaceutical innovation.

Beyond the Bench

Undertaking her MBA was a significant investment in personal development for Megan. “I recognized the need to differentiate myself,” she explains, emphasizing the importance of bringing value beyond scientific capabilities to progress in leadership roles. Juggling full-time work with the part-time study was challenging but proved beneficial, allowing Megan to integrate her learning in real-time.

The skills acquired during her MBA were immediately applicable to growing Almac Science’s flow chemistry business. Proactively gaining valuable capabilities for the organization helped her stand out. The interpersonal and business skills honed during her studies have accelerated her career trajectory.

However, Megan acknowledges that academic achievement is only one aspect of growth. “Every day, I continue to learn new concepts and face new challenges,” she says. Having supportive mentors and a conducive environment enables her to take risks and gain valuable perspectives, facilitating her growth as a leader.

Megan’s journey exemplifies the importance of continuous learning and seizing opportunities for personal and professional development. Through dedication, resilience, and a supportive network, individuals like Megan can thrive and make significant contributions to their organizations

Innovation, Collaboration and Success

Communication is fundamental when introducing new policies or procedures within an organization. “It’s imperative that leaders instill core values and create a shared sense of ownership in the new direction,” says Megan.

Resistance to change is natural; hence, within the Almac Group, the emphasis lies on ensuring outstanding quality, exceptional innovation, superlative customer focus, and financial performance. By embodying these values, Almac’s team ensures that their work contributes meaningfully to advancing human health.

The successful integration of flow chemistry as a new business area at Almac Sciences stems from a history of demonstrated success. “Innovation is central, and knowledge is built in the specific area of expertise,” notes Megan. It’s crucial to maintain a culture of innovation and shared ownership which is facilitated through alignment from senior management and building a network of influencers across all levels of the organization. This fosters an increasingly proficient workforce capable of tackling complexities with inspired action.

At Almac Sciences, sharing technical knowledge and experience is championed for the industry’s advancement. “We accelerate knowledge development and transfer through academic collaborations,” explains Megan. These partnerships not only expand the organization’s network but also showcase its scientific credibility and expertise globally. Furthermore, such collaborations generate a pipeline of expertly trained flow chemists, ensuring continued support for Almac Sciences’ platform as it expands.

Megan’s approach puts forth effective communication, a culture of innovation and strategic collaborations as the pivotal aspects for driving organizational growth and success. By encouraging shared ownership and staying true to core values, organizations like Almac continue to make significant strides in their respective industries.

Flowing Forward

Almac Sciences’ flow chemistry platform provides clients with the best available technology to meet current processing needs and secure future supply. Continuous flow technology accelerates process development for challenging chemistries, including novel functional group interchanges and high-pressure transformations. Safety is paramount with flow processes offering lower reaction volumes, precise temperature control, and controlled risk at higher pressures.

One notable area of expertise at Almac Sciences is high-pressure hydrogenations, enabling the delivery of significant quantities of target compounds for customers. This innovative approach has unlocked new capabilities. Almac Sciences is dedicated to expanding its flow chemistry platform, offering services from proof of concept to manufacturing. The portfolio includes several commercial products with increasing demand and Megan sees the development of flow processes as key to unlocking additional capacity without increasing batch sizes.

Almac Sciences’ commitment to advancing flow chemistry aligns with industry priorities for cleaner, more efficient, and safer chemical processes. By leveraging continuous flow technology, the company continues to innovate and meet the evolving needs of its clients while ensuring a sustainable and secure supply chain for the future.

Overcoming Obstacles

Working in a highly innovative research and development field means challenges are frequent, but this is a great motivator,” expresses Megan. Despite the inevitable challenges, the team remains focused on the ultimate goal—to find solutions to complex challenges to advance human health. Collaboration is key during high-pressure situations, as facing challenges together makes them feel more manageable.

Megan emphasizes the importance of empathy and maintaining a positive attitude as a leader. “Demonstrating empathy while remaining positive and enthusiastic helps drive everyone to success,” she notes. By fostering a supportive and optimistic environment, Megan ensures her team remains resilient and motivated to overcome any obstacles they encounter in their pursuit of innovation and progress in healthcare.

The Art of Knowledge Sharing

In addressing complex challenges, collaboration across the team is crucial. Drawing from her own experience, Megan emphasizes the importance of utilizing the expertise of more senior colleagues. The quickest way to succeed has been to tap into the expertise of more senior chemists in the lab. By encouraging curiosity and open communication, she fosters a dynamic environment where knowledge sharing is valued.

Megan instills this mentality within her team, particularly among new graduates. She emphasizes the significance of being inquisitive and reflective while also promoting open communication about any missed learnings. This approach accelerates the learning curve and cultivates a strong team dynamic. “Junior members are encouraged to ask questions, and more senior members have the opportunity to hone their leadership skills,” Megan explains.

Despite leading the team, Megan acknowledges that she doesn’t have all the answers. “We are faster, stronger, and more inspired when we come together,” she emphasizes. By leveraging the collective expertise and diverse perspectives within the team, Megan ensures

they are better equipped to tackle challenges and achieve success collaboratively.

R&D to Commercial Success

Almac Sciences is recognized globally as a key player in biocatalysis research and development. The company’s expertise extends to the commercial supply of chiral intermediates at a multi-tonne scale in the UK and Ireland. Among the innovative techniques utilized, enzyme immobilization stands out as an established method for efficient bio-transformations in the pharmaceutical industry.

Megan highlights a significant collaboration involving Almac Sciences, Arran Chemical Company, and Alcresta Therapeutics in the production of RELiZORB®. This groundbreaking digestive enzyme cartridge, designed to mimic pancreatic lipase function, showcases Almac Sciences’ prowess in enzyme immobilization technology. The journey from small-scale R&D to commercial supply within 18 months demonstrates the organization’s commitment to innovation and scientific advancement.

The collaboration between teams in enzyme discovery, development, and manufacture across borders underscores Almac Sciences’ leadership in various domains, including chemical polymerization and analytical chemistry. Megan notes the tangible outcomes of this collaboration, including the delivery of metric tonnes of commercial products and the production of nearly one million product devices to date.

Moreover, the success of this project has led to additional business opportunities for Almac, furthers olidifying its position in the industry. “We continue to support the supply of Alcresta’s RELiZORB® and further fourth-generation products,” Megan affirms.

Thriving Amidst Change

In the pharmaceutical industry, flexibility is key. As a service provider, the organization prioritizes understanding and meeting customers’ requirements with agility. Success in delivering within tight timelines relies on cohesive teamwork and a shared focus on deliverables.

Megan emphasizes the importance of resilience amidst changing circumstances. It’s more than just ensuring the delivery of the project. In her role, she remains committed to the goal while exuding passion and enthusiasm. This approach fosters a culture where the team embraces challenges, staying engaged and inspired to achieve their objectives. By maintaining this collaborative and positive environment, Megan ensures that her team remains adaptable and driven towards success in the dynamic pharmaceutical landscape.

Learning and Leading

My role in the pharmaceutical industry is incredibly exciting because I’m constantly learning about new concepts,” shares Megan. Her passion for learning was a driving force behind her decision to study chemistry, knowing it would offer diverse opportunities in her career. Megan finds inspiration in scientific articles outside her expertise, often sparking innovative ideas.

Recognizing her team as the core asset, Megan prioritizes knowledge sharing for collective success. “I want to empower my team with the knowledge, skills, and attributes to continuously develop,” she emphasizes.

Through presentations, literature sharing, and workshops, Megan promotes a growth mindset within her team. Peer-to-peer learning is encouraged, fostering mutual respect and a cohesive unit.

Megan acknowledges failure as part of the learning journey. Accepting failure and using it as a booster to create new solutions is crucial. As a leader, Megan’s approach cultivates adaptability and drives creativity within her team. This commitment to continuous improvement inspires them to tackle complex challenges and strive for new levels of success. Through a culture of learning, sharing, and resilience, Megan leads her team towards innovative solutions and impactful outcomes in the pharmaceutical landscape.

The Power of Emotional Intelligence

Megan believes that successful leadership transcends industries, focusing on self-awareness and authenticity. Identifying opportunities to use her strengths and develop her weaknesses is crucial. As a scientist, Megan’s natural curiosity drives her to ask questions, promoting learning, exploration, and innovation within her team. Drawing from her background in chemistry, Megan values creative and analytical thinking as essential for breaking down complex challenges and devising fresh solutions. Emotional intelligence is also vital; Megan highlights the importance of empathy in fostering a supportive team culture where individuals feel valued and understood.

Megan emphasizes the significance of personal connection in leadership. “People like to know that you care about them on a human level,” she states, stressing the importance of building effective relationships with employees to enhance engagement and job satisfaction. A supportive and ambitious culture within her team drives innovation and motivates individuals to excel. Ultimately, Megan’s approach to leadership underscores the importance of ensuring a culture of empathy, curiosity, and personal connection, driving both individual and team success across industries.

A New Era of Healthcare

“Almac’s vision is that we will be the leader in the generation of superior solutions for the advancement of human health,” affirms Megan. With the ongoing expansion of continuous flow manufacturing capabilities in the UK and Ireland, the company aims to contribute to numerous drug targets, both existing and new, for the benefit of patients.

Megan finds the prospect of unlocking new synthetic strategies particularly thrilling. “By accessing novel chemical structures, we have the potential to identify new medicines for illnesses that currently cannot be treated,” she explains. This presents an opportunity for a life- changing impact, driving Megan’s pride in leading an exceptional team during this exciting time at Almac Sciences.

The company’s commitment to innovation and advancing healthcare underscores Megan’s enthusiasm and confidence in their ability to make meaningful contributions to the field. Through collaborative efforts and a dedication to excellence, Almac Sciences strives to realize its vision of leading the way in improving human health.