5 Questions with Azita Adli, MS, MBA, Manager, QA Systems, GSK

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome 5 Questions with Azita Adli, MS, MBA, Manager, QA Systems, GSK.

Azita Adli is a passionate, innovative, and quality-minded professional with 10+ years of experience within the pharmaceutical industry. Azita has held roles within production, investigation, quality systems, and central quality throughout her career, supporting sites within GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK’s) Pharmaceutical Supply Chain. Currently, on temporary assignment as Data Integrity Quality Lead within central Quality, she previously served as Manager, Quality Systems at Rockville Biopharm.

Before joining GSK, she was a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in Bethesda, MD, studying the effects of a secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, SLPI, on inflammation and invasion in head and neck cancer. Ms. Adli holds a BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, an MS in Biotechnology from Georgetown University, and recently completed her MBA from the University of Maryland, College Park.

1. Please introduce yourself to our audience with a look back at your education, training, and career.

As a Montgomery County native and inherently aware of the I-270 technology corridor growing up, science and technology became areas of interest for me early on. My passion for continuous learning, whether through formal coursework or growth within a company, is evident in my educational and career choices.

After graduating from UMD, I joined a biotechnology corporation performing laboratory work on animal models to study the use of antibodies for infectious diseases. Through this experience and learning more about the industry, I decided to pursue an MS in Biotechnology from Georgetown University. Through my experiential internship with Georgetown, I had the opportunity to become a fellow at the NIH, NIDCR, Oral Infection and Immunity Branch, studying the effects of a secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, SLPI, on inflammation and invasion in relation to squamous cell carcinoma. After learning and performing formal research and benchwork, I decided to gain industry experience by working for a leading company.

Through networking with friends and former classmates, I was invited to join Human Genome Sciences (HGS) as a biopharmaceutical associate working within the clinical manufacturing side of the business, producing medications for clinical trial patients. During this time, HGS was acquired by GSK, which resulted in an opportunity for me to move into either large-scale or small-scale manufacturing. I ultimately chose large scale because of my interest in automation technology and scalability of production at a 20,000-liter scale.

After several years of gaining technical and hands-on experience within manufacturing, I became interested in learning about the investigation process, essentially, why an issue occurs and ways to prevent it from occurring in the future. This led to an opportunity to join the team of manufacturing specialists, in which I supported the downstream large-scale manufacturing group. This role allowed me to apply my technical manufacturing knowledge while building analysis skills.

While in these roles, I was always interested in quality, regulatory, and what occurs during an inspection. My interest led to an opportunity within the quality systems team supporting supplier quality and, ultimately, to my next role leading the site’s inspection readiness activities. This involved managing corporate, regulatory, and third-party inspections, developing and implementing corrective and preventive actions, and managing the site’s data integrity program. During this time, I completed an MBA in Business Administration from the University of Maryland, College Park, to build my business acumen and combine it with my technical capabilities.

2. You’ve held a few different roles as GSK and before that HGS. Walk us through those.

I joined GSK Rockville Biopharm (previously Human Genome Sciences), in 2010, as a biopharmaceutical associate, learning and actively involved in the manufacturing of products including Benlysta, Nucala, and several client contracted products. After several years of working on the production floor, actively involved in the process, I had gained the technical knowledge that carried me through to my subsequent roles. My next role as a manufacturing specialist allowed me to use all my technical knowledge, including continuous improvement, and gain problem-solving and root cause analysis skills essential in the industry.

As a manufacturing specialist, I led investigations for deviations from procedures and implemented corrective and preventive actions. Having always been interested in quality and regulatory inspections, an opportunity became available within our quality systems, supplier quality team. It was rewarding to use skills gained through previous roles here, such as supporting manufacturing by ensuring our materials suppliers met our quality standards and supporting the site for regulatory, corporate, and third-party inspections. While in this role, I transitioned into leading our inspection readiness efforts and our data integrity program at the site, both of which gave me an even greater appreciation for the impact of our work to ensure our medicines are safe and available for the patients we serve.

Throughout my career and in the roles I’ve held, I’ve sought out continuous learning, similar to continuous improvement in a process, in an effort to improve my skills and gain new skills, which I can take forward into each new opportunity and make it better.

3. How has being educated here (Maryland and Georgetown) impacted your career and your decision to stay in the BioHealth Capital Region?

Being educated within the BioHealth Capital Region, specifically within STEM areas, has influenced my career and decision to stay in the area. I’ve witnessed the evolution of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry from when I first started undergrad to graduate school, with companies entering our region from other BioHealth regions, to expand their presence and footprint within the DMV area, has been exciting and one of the many reasons I’ve chosen to stay.

It’s also impactful having organizations such as BioBuzz, helping industry leaders, large and small, engage with universities and students and inspire them with opportunities available within just a few miles of their universities and campuses.

4. What role are you in now, and can you explain what a temporary assignment (secondment) is within GSK?

I’m currently on temporary assignment (secondment) as Data Integrity Quality Lead with the central Quality Systems team, supporting data integrity implementation and progression, system compliance for analytical and non-analytical equipment, and inspection readiness for data integrity. Additionally, I’ve been able to further expand my skills gained throughout my various roles to support sites across our global Pharmaceutical Supply Chain to meet their objectives for the year.

A temporary assignment (secondment) is when you provisionally move to work within another role or department, within the same country, for an agreed period of time. At the end of the secondment, you are expected to return to your previous position in your home department unless you accept another position within the company or your home position has been eliminated, in which an alternative is provided. Secondments are a great development opportunity to expand skills, build capability and grow your network in order to advance your career. In today’s market and our surrounding area, these opportunities are essential to utilize site-based knowledge centrally and bring back broader perspectives to continuously improve your home site.

5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and what would you do with it?

A tough question but, if I could have a Superpower, it would have to be the ability to heal. Living in our times, witnessing the various and immense suffering around the globe – to be able to help ease that for people would be the ultimate gift. One of the many motivating factors for me being in our industry and working for GSK is striving to help patients that need the medications we create for treatments in an effort for them to do more, feel better and live longer.

Thank you to Azita Adli, MS, MBA, Manager, QA Systems, GSK for participating in the 5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series, and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.