Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Andrea Ippolito, SDM '11: Product Development in the Life Sciences Industry

By Eileen McCluskey


Andrea Ippolito
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography
Andrea Ippolito envisions transforming the product development process in the life sciences field from one that consumes millions of dollars and years of labor, to a streamlined collaborative system that ushers new medical devices and drugs to market using dramatically fewer resources and far less time.

To accomplish this goal Ippolito — a first-year SDM student — plans to combine SDM-gained skills with her experiences working within life sciences. "I've had a great experience working in early stage R&D at Boston Scientific, and my goal is to be more involved in bridging the gap between science and business," said Ippolito, whose responsibilities at Boston Scientific Corporation (BSC) included performing due diligence assays to evaluate the response of new materials in the company's drug-eluting stent platform. "I didn't want to leave engineering because it's so important to maintain technical relevance. This made SDM the perfect choice for me," she adds.

Ippolito is already making headway toward her objective. For example, as a research assistant with MIT's Lean Advancement Initiative, Ippolito serves on a team charged by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop innovative recommendations for transforming the military enterprise to better manage post-traumatic stress and related conditions, in support of service members and their families.

One of Ippolito's roles is to gauge the needs of stakeholders, including families and service members, to more fully understand the state of today's treatment. "It is critical to understand families' needs in order to develop more effective services," she said. "We're also examining the delivery of care to service members and their families using telemedicine. For instance, we are assessing the barriers to adoption associated with using this technology and how might they be overcome."

In addition, Ippolito helped to cultivate research collaborations while working as a scientist at BSC. She was recruited by upper management to develop and co-lead a Communities of Excellence (CoE) initiative to reduce inefficiencies and leverage knowledge within the product development process through cross-functional collaborations. She had captured management's attention through her work with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and by founding the first Biomedical Engineering Society Industry Chapter in Boston in 2008.

Another of Ippolito's passions is to encourage other women to become engineers and help them succeed. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in biological engineering at Cornell University, Ippolito served as president of that university's section of SWE. She continued her involvement with SWE while earning her master's of engineering in biomedical engineering at Cornell. After moving to Boston, she became the first vice president for SWE Boston and co-founded the Women's Network at Boston Scientific's corporate headquarters.

Here at SDM, Ippolito has joined Women in SDM (WiSDM — pronounced "wisdom"), which recruits and supports female applicants to the program. "WiSDM helps to create a culture in SDM that will accomplish that goal," she said.

Focusing on her overall vision, Ippolito's SDM thesis will assess the co-evolution of technology and the provision of care in the Military Health System, where her goal is to examine the role of Virtual Behavioral Health (VBH) treatment to help facilitate better psychological health-care service delivery.

Ippolito is fired up about the skills she is building through SDM and the real-world applicability of the tools that are introduced in the program. For instance, she is learning new ways to assess and understand complex problems with tools, such as System Dynamics, in the Systems Project Management course and is studying ways to develop and deliver new or enhanced technologies in her Technology Strategy class.

"SDM inspires me every day — not only through courses, but also by learning what my peers are doing across industries," Ippolito said. "These, too, are rich lessons we can bring back to our own sectors."

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