Jessica St Charles (MPI Research, USA)
What made you chose a career in bioanalysis?
As a little girl I always enjoyed science and made that my main focus of study within school. When my father died of a heart attack at an early age it was then that I decided to focus my career on bioanalysis. I wanted to understand the effects of drug therapies on biological systems and whether they could be beneficial in treating specific types of disease.
Describe the main highlights of your bioanalytical work?
Over the last ten years of working in the field of science I have been exposed to many different aspects of bioanalysis. My graduate work focused on the autoimmune sequelae, Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). During this time I identified murine models, biological triggers to the phenotypes of the disease, and the effect of antibiotics. I developed multiple strategies for testing my hypotheses including enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), immunohistochemistry (IHC), and phenotype testing. After completing my PhD, I transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry, working for a contract research company (CRO). In this environment I have been exposed to various types of ligand binding assays primarily used to measure pharmacokinetic and anti-drug antibody response to many different proteins, peptides, and antibodies. In addition, I have worked on new technology, branched DNA (bDNA) that quantifies RNA using high through-put methodologies compared to traditional qPCR. In collaboration with my sponsors, I developed the bDNA platform that my CRO uses today.
Currently, I have operational and scientific leadership responsibilities for a group of bioanalytical scientists and technicians. The group develops novel assays for multiple types of large molecule drug therapies and provides both discovery and regulated data in support of drug development.
How has your work impacted your laboratory, the bioanalytical field and beyond?
The work I performed in academia helped build stepping stones in both the laboratory and the field of GBS to further identify the pathogenesis of this disease and the effects of antibiotics in identifying an aggressive murine model. The work I perform in my current role at a CRO has facilitated the identification of potential drug therapies. In addition, I have collaborated in developing a novel way to improve quantitation of RNA and increase through put compared to traditional platforms.
Describe the most difficult challenge you have encountered in your scientific career and how you overcame it?
During my scientific career I have had to overcome different obstacles; one particular challenge that stands out as difficult is the paradigm shift from academia to a fast paced, highly regulated environment. Procedures such as documentation in a laboratory notebook or optimized assay have different meanings in academia compared to a regulated GxP environment. Conforming to GxP results in a decreased through put; however the quality of data produced is more reliable and reproducible. Also, a difference between the two environments is the pace of assay development. An academic environment has no real deadlines other than those of your own to publish; therefore assay development and optimization may take months as one works to thoroughly answer every question, every anomaly and ultimately develop a complete understanding of the assay. The environment at a CRO requires everything to be completed much faster, on a budget and often leaves the scientist with unanswered questions about the assay. To overcome this obstacle I changed the approach to my method development to focus solely on feasibility and optimization rather than a complete understanding of every tiny aspect to the assay. In addition, I developed better documentation skills to meet industry expectations.
Describe your role in bioanalytical communities/groups?
My role in the bioanalytical community began small and focused within academia and specifically around the pathogenesis of GBS and other similar neuropathies. I was an analyst developing multiple ELISAs and IHC assays as well as the overall statistical analysis and data reports. I focused on both the details of the assays and the data within context of the study. . My role expanded as I moved into industry, specifically in a CRO environment. Within the CRO community I began as an analyst developing both ligand binding assays (LBA) as well as bDNA assays. Eventually, I transitioned into the role of project manager where not only could I focus on the details of the assays but evaluate at the study results holistically to assist sponsors in interpreting their data.
Over the course of my tenure in the CRO industry I have moved a director level position overseeing a bioanalysis laboratory and bDNA sponsors. Most recently, I have participated in GCC discussions related to current industry challenges.
List up to five of your publications in the field of bioanalysis:1 St. Charles, J.L., B.J. Gadsden, J.A. Bell, A. Malik, E.J. Smith, and L.S. Mansfield. Guillain Barré Syndrome is induced in Non-Obese Diabetic (NOD) mice following Campylobacter jejuni infection and exacerbated by antibiotics. Journal of Autoimmunity. 2017 February, 77: 11-38. 2 Malik, A., D. Sharma, J.L. St. Charles, L.A. Dybas, and L.S. Mansfield. Contrasting immune responses mediate Campylobacter jejuni-induced colitis and autoimmunity. Mucosal Immunology. 2013 April, 7:802-817. 3 St. Charles, J.L, R. Mosci, J. Rudrik, S.D. Manning, and L.S. Mansfield. Campylobacter jejuni isolates from calves have A, B and C lipooligosaccharide (LOS) biosynthetic locus classes similar to human Guillain Barré Syndrome associated strains. Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, Chicago, Illinois, 2012.
Find out more about this year’s New Investigator Award, the judging panel and the rest of our nominees.