5 Questions with Natalie McKinney, Industry Programs Director, Biologics, US Pharmacopeia

“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. March is WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH and BioBuzz will celebrate by featuring Women in the BioHealth industry all month, especially in “5 Questions With…”. This week we continue the series with Natalie McKinney, Industry Programs Director, Biologics, US Pharmacopeia.

Natalie McKinney is a marketing strategy leader with 15+ years of experience in life sciences and technology organizations. She uses data-driven, customer-centric approaches to gain a deep understanding of dynamic customer needs and drivers. She enjoys leveraging internal and external relationships to build a holistic customer view and gains alignment on high-impact, right-sized product and marketing investments that are timed appropriately for the market.

Natalie has demonstrated success along the product lifecycle- including early-stage product planning and development, launches, and driving growth- in multiple life science sectors.  She has also advised more mature healthcare brands on increasing their product competitiveness, enhancing value, and winning market share through organic and inorganic strategies.  Natalie has a BS in Biology from George Washington University and an MBA from the University of Maryland.

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

The common thread running throughout my education and career has been the blend of science, business, and drive to impact others’ health and well-being.  After taking an interest in the sciences at a young age, I was particularly enamored by the biological sciences—so much that I could be found skipping my other classes to spend extra time in the Biology classroom in high school. (Disclaimer: I would not advocate that other students do the same!) After completing my undergraduate degree, I started working in the R&D lab at Mars Inc’s life science innovation arm. 

Over the 7 years that I spent in this division, I grew an affinity for building and growing new programs and initiatives.  This began with helping to set up the new analytical labs and train new hires, followed by a transition to commercial roles of increasing responsibility across innovative programs, including genetic testing services, consumer healthcare products, and environmental solutions.  With a keen interest in scaling and globalizing new technologies that positively impact human and animal health, I was motivated to understand customers’ needs that could be addressed with new technologies.

While working, I completed my MBA at UMD, with a concentration in marketing.  As a consultant, I advised companies in different product areas, including biotherapeutics, medical devices, and healthcare analytics, with respect to market intelligence and marketing strategy.  After spending a couple of years at a technology company leading a team through the integration of several company acquisitions, I was recruited to USP and was excited to join the organization!

At USP, I was hired to build and lead our Business Analytics Team and introduce new tools and systems to empower data-driven decision-making.  Over the past four years, I have held strategic marketing roles focusing on the development and implementation of USP’s Biologics strategy. 

2. You’ve been with US Pharmacopeia (USP) for about 6 years. The organization has been around since 1820. Please tell us about your current role and what USP has planned in the immediate future.

USP is an independent, scientific, non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure uniform and high-quality medicines globally.  While USP has been around for 200+ years, our work and the standards we create have significantly evolved along with the pharmaceutical industry.  USP’s recently announced strategic alliance with Phlow Corp. on the advancement of Pharmaceutical Continuous Manufacturing is a testament to USP’s emphasis on innovation while also staying true to our original mission.

In my role as Industry Programs Director for Biologics, I am leading the cross-functional Product Management Workstream in our biologics program.  The overarching goal is to provide the biotech community with the right tools, standards, and services that support innovation, quality, and consistency in the development and manufacturing of biologics. 

In my role, I work collaboratively across multiple groups within the organization to assess unmet market needs, prioritize our portfolio to best address those needs, and develop the right product positioning and customer targeting strategies to maximize value to the biologics community and public health.  For anyone working in the areas of protein, cell, or gene therapies or vaccines, we welcome engagement to see how USP can support your work!

More broadly, at USP, we have two mission priorities: to support the public health response to COVID-19 and to strengthen the global medicines supply chain. We aim to build public trust in vaccines and treatments through resources such as the USP COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit and new targeted quality standards for COVID-19 vaccines and therapies.  We are also working to improve supply chain resilience by increasing transparency into potential risks through initiatives such as our Medicine Supply Map – an early detection warning system to help predict drug shortages.

I am proud to work for a mission-driven organization that also places a high value on diversity, inclusion, and belonging.  Currently, 53% of USP employees identify as minorities, and women fill 44% of scientific roles. There are also multiple affinity groups at USP, such as USP’s Global Women’s Network and USP’s Black Employees Building Organizations of Leadership and Diversity (U-BE BOLD), who actively advance DIB in our organization. Not only does the best innovation happen when a full array of perspectives is welcomed and appreciated, but this is an important aspect to attract and retain top talent in an organization.

3. You’re also active with Women In Bio. Tell us about the organization and local chapter for those who might want to join.

Women In Bio (WIB) is an organization committed to promoting careers, leadership, and entrepreneurship for all women in the life sciences. Our primary focus is to provide women-to-women mentorship and leadership support through all stages of career development — from the classroom to the boardroom.  As the Co-Chair of Communications for the Capital Region Chapter, I have personally met and been inspired by local women with diverse backgrounds across the life sciences, including company founders, quality leaders, post-doc researchers, manufacturing leaders, finance leaders, attorneys, and more. 

This is truly reflective of the rich and cross-cutting BioHealth Capital Region.  WIB provides unparalleled opportunities for any woman interested in building her network in the life sciences, looking for leadership development support, or transitioning careers. There are also many volunteer and sponsorship opportunities available to support our mission in the Capital Region and beyond.  Please reach out or follow our chapter on social media—we would love to hear from you!  

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/wib-capital-region
Twitter: @WIBCapitalRgn

4. What do you feel are the biggest gaps in the BioHealth Capital Region right now, and how would you address them

As a DC area native, it’s been remarkable to watch what was known as the “Technology Corridor” flourish into what is now called the BioHealth Capital Region. There are so many strengths that are truly unique to the BioHealth Capital.  The confluence of a diverse set of stakeholders enables strong collaboration, collectively fostering innovation.  Just to name a few:  government (NIH, FDA, CMS), academia (Johns Hopkins, UMD, UMBC), industry (over 1,800 life science companies), associations, and non-profits (such as USP). 

An important set of organizations play a strong role in propelling our region forward by facilitating collaborations and entrepreneurship in the life sciences industry – for example, the Maryland Tech Council, along with the many incubators that exist in the area. 

I am proud to be a part of this region, especially given the strong efforts and successes that galvanized the COVID-19 vaccine response.  On top of all of this, we are positioned to be in the US’s top three biotech clusters by 2023!

In terms of gaps, while I see talent as one of the strengths of this area, we still need to build the candidate pool to support long-term growth proactively.  This places a high importance on workforce development and promoting interest in the life sciences to those of all career stages, from early STEM education to career changers and relocators.  As we move forward through the era of COVID-19, it will also be essential to stay connected and keep strong partnerships across organizations in the region. 

5. If you could have any Superpower. What would it be and why?

If I could have a Superpower, it would definitely be teleportation.  Who would not want to wake up and grab a coffee in Cuba, then tour the streets of Southern Spain, and finish the day with a malbec in Mendoza?  With all of the time at home lately, transporting to a faraway place sounds especially appealing!      

Thank you to Natalie McKinney, Industry Programs Director, Biologics, US Pharmacopeia 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.

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