COVID-19: These SDSU
College of Sciences Alumni are Making a Difference
Thank you for your dedication and hard work.
Please share how you or an Alumni you know is actively helping to fight COVID-19.
Andre Creese, M.D., FACEP
Class of 1990: Psychology
OPYS Physician Services
President and Chief Executive Officer
“OPYS provides emergency physicians, hospitalists, and more, to hospitals – we provide the physicians and practitioners, and run the entire practice. We are currently in 5 states, and are expanding. From our standpoint, I have seen thus far, a lag in volume surges in the rural emergency departments (unlike the larger metro cities). Instead, we have seen significant decreases in patient volume approximately 30%. Below is a comment from John Alley, CEO of Woodlawn Hospital in Rochester, IN about the service he received from OPYS.
‘All across this nation the unsung heroes that we are not getting to hear about much are the ER physicians, ER nurses and tech’s that are on the front line of this battle. On a daily basis they are not thinking about the safety of themselves but treating the countless numbers of patients flooding into the emergency rooms across this country. We hear about the number of COVID-19 patients but what is not told is the hundreds of other patients who come in with nothing wrong but are afraid that they might have the virus. They treat these folks with the same compassion and care as those who are seriously ill. Most of them are putting 12 hours days at a minimum with many more staying over to help get as many patients seen as possible. It is times like this that I am proud to say that I have the opportunity to work with such an outstanding group of dedicated professionals.
As the leader of OPYS, Andre’s dedication to the emergency medicine field is seen by me each and every day by the outstanding group of physicians you have assembled to provide patient care in several hospitals across the Midwest and here at Woodlawn Hospital. In these troubling times it helps me as the CEO of Woodlawn to not have to worry about the level of care provided in my Emergency Department, his team has my back and I can devote my time to making sure our organization is prepared for the battle yet to come with the COVID-19 virus.’ “
Fred P. LaPlant, Ph.D.
Class of 1989: Chemistry
Product Development Manager, Biopharmaceutical Purification
“I am part of the biopharmaceutical purification group at 3M. The news has been full of the work that 3M is doing with regards to increasing production of N95 masks, but 3M also has a significant presence supporting development in the pharmaceutical industry. My group is primarily involved in developing purification products for the manufacture of monoclonal antibody drugs – some of which are identified as candidates for Covid-19 therapies. We also produce filters critical to the production of vaccines, that ensure the sterility of injectable drugs, or help fractionate human blood. We are currently working round the clock to ensure that our partner companies have all the tools they need to bring Covid-19 under control. As an SDSU alumni in Chemistry, I continue to build on the skills I learned as an undergrad to develop new technologies and introduce new-to-the-world products.”
Sonia Maciejewski, Ph.D.
Class of 2011: Biology
“I am very thankful to SDSU for all the opportunities they offered to me during my time there (2006-2011). I am thankful to Dr. Pozos for referring me to the Ronald McNair program with Veronica Bejar. This program allowed me to do research in Dr. Diane K Smith’s lab. Michelle Lopez at the MBRS program, where I worked in Dr. Ralph Feur’s lab. Thelma Chavez for always being supportive! These people have all played critical roles in my career development. After SDSU, I attended UC Irvine for my PhD in Biomedical Science and then went to work at the NIH for the Zika virus pandemic to develop a vaccine. I am currently at Novavax in Gaithersburg, MD as a scientist working on the development of a COVID19 vaccine. My role here is to characterize the immune response elicited by our vaccine candidates to determine if our vaccine will be protective.”
Julie Richardson, B.S.
Class of 1982: Biology
Mesa Biotech, Inc
Vice President of Quality Assurance
“Mesa Biotech has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for its Accula™ SARS-CoV-2 Test, which gives COVID-19 diagnostic results in 30 minutes. Mesa Biotech Inc., a privately-held, molecular diagnostic company that has developed an affordable, easy to use, testing platform designed for point-of-care (POC) infectious disease diagnosis. The COVID-19 test uses this patented technology to enable ‘near patient’ testing allowing testing outside of the central laboratory.
My role as the VP of Quality is to ensure that the SARS-CoV-2 Test for COVID-19 disease is a test that is safe and effective through the practice of our Quality System. That means for example that verification studies, documentation, labeling, Quality Control testing, Quality Assurance oversight, product support, and distribution are all handled in a manner as required by the FDA. The FDA expects items such as complete traceability of all product we ship, and to do that we need a robust, mature Quality System that I have been able to implement, guide, and direct during my time at Mesa.
I joined Mesa Biotech in 2018 as a consultant to help them implement a robust Quality System. I then became full time in June 2019 as I was impressed with the technology and the passionate team. My career has been centered around making a difference in human health, and joining Mesa has afforded me that beyond what I had ever imagined.”
Gary Hand, M.S.
Class of 1992: Biology
Thermo Fisher Scientific
District Service Manager North America
“Following getting my Masters Degree in Molecular Biology from SDSU, Dr. Chris Glembotski’s lab, I worked for three years in a lab at USC, and then took a position as a Field Service Engineer with Applied Biosystems (now Thermo Fisher Scientific). I provided service and support for the Applied Biosystems instruments for 16 years and then took a Service Manager position, and have been managing my old service team for nearly 9 years. I am currently managing and coordination the installation and service of all of the Thermo Fisher Scientific instruments being used to run COVID-19 tests in Southern California. We have been all hands on deck for public health labs, hospitals, universities, diagnostic labs, the Navy, and others.
The current pandemic has received a lot of attention, but honestly the work that my team and I do every day makes a difference. Currently the focus is on COVID-19, but in the background Thermo Fisher Scientific is helping to enable scientist to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer. I have had a very rewarding career. If you follow a path that you enjoy, you will be excited to go to work every day.
I owe a lot to Chris and SDSU for helping me build my scientific foundation.”
Sean Kaufman, MPH, CHES, CPH, CIC
Class of 1996: Psychology / 1999: Health and Human Behavior
Safer Behaviors (USA)
CEO and Founding Partner
“Most of the time when an outbreak occurs, I pack my bags and head off to assist on the frontlines of the emerging infectious disease we are facing. But I find myself in unfamiliar territory, home and sheltering-in place as this pandemic takes hold here at home. Worried about my parents who are well over 60 years old, my 16-year old son who continues to work at a grocery store, and of course the chances of becoming sick myself as I serve infectious disease pioneers – healthcare workers, public health officials, and laboratory scientists during this pandemic situation. We are serving healthcare providers with strategies that address donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, proper screening and triage, and medical surveillance screening programs – ensuring the health and safety of those serving on the front lines of this pandemic. We serve public health professionals by focusing on risks which don’t diminish as a result of pandemic situations. Care is still needed by so many and if we only focus on the pandemic – so many more will be affected as a result of this distraction. Finally, we serve scientists by providing safety programs which keeps them safer as they provide diagnostic services and research therapeutic solutions during this pandemic event. Our company focuses the intersection of human behavior and infectious diseases. A plan alone will not produce the desired outcome. It is behavior which connects plans and outcomes – and now more than ever – our behavior determines just how safe we are during this challenging time.”
Faith Du, M.S., B.S.
Class of 2007: Biology / 2011: Regulatory Affairs
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Regulatory Affairs Manager
Faith is the Regulatory Affairs Manager at Thermo-Fisher and is the lead for Covid-19 EUA product development. Her team is interacting with the FDA to see how they can expand manufacturing, partnering with other companies to develop PPE and a couple other labs to help increase testing, and working on emergency products to support local communities.
Paul Fryling, M.S. B.S
Class of 2010: Biology / 2014 Bioinformatics and Medical Informatics
Principal Software Engineer
Paul is working at Moderna, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, MA that is pioneering a new class of drugs based on messenger RNA. He’s working with a world class team on a proprietary suite of digital apps that support Moderna’s ability to rapidly develop vaccines to combat pandemic threats like COVID-19. Paul’s interest in the intersection of technology and biology led him to earn both his B.S. in biology, and a M.S. in bioinformatics from the BMIRC program at San Diego State University. During his time on campus he started the Biomedical Technology Student Association (BTSA), and with tremendous support from Dr. Stanley Maloy and Dr. Rob Edwards, brought in industry speakers to share their real-world experience and setup tours of local companies for current students. He subsequently sat on the board of the SDSU Alumni Association and helped organize the SDSU Science Alumni Network to make it easier for STEM alumni to foster a strong professional network and promote a sense of community.
Hanieh Shoushtari, MPH, B.A.
Class of 1997: Biology / 2000: Health Services Administration
Reimbursement Business Manager
“My name is Hanieh Shoushtari. I got my BA in Biology (1997) and my MPH, Health Services Adminisitration (2000) from SDSU. Currently I’m a Reimbursement Business Manager at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Regeneron is one of the companies who is working and using the technology that it has to combat COVID-19. Regeneron is working on a treatment that will be studied to see if it could be used to prevent infection or to treat patients already infected with the virus. Regeneron is aiming to have human testing done by early summer 2020. Regeneron is also currently donating 500,000 test kits to New York State. During this difficult time everyday I’m fortunate to work for such a great company and I look forward to hearing that one day in the near future Regeneron would have a treatment for COVID-19.”
Hiba Qadri, B.S.
Class of 2010: Molecular Biology
Quality Assurance Specialist
“I’m currently marked as essential and am responsible for managing our production equipment here. It’s pertinent that all our manufacturing equipment remain in compliance by passing scheduled calibration and preventative maintenance services while we are making product for the coronavirus test kit.”
Daniel Moncada, B.S.
Class of 2010: Computer Science
Lead Software Engineer
“Hologic’s contribution to the fight against Covid-19 consists of a world-class diagnostic system that is able to provide results in approximately 3 hours. Hologic’s system is able to process more than 1000 coronavirus tests in 24 hours, with its intuitive hardware design and easy to use software. I am currently a Lead Software Engineer that is leading a team responsible for creating workflow management software that will drastically increase the throughput of Hologic diagnostic systems through laboratory automation; allowing our diagnostic systems to work together in order to process many thousands of samples per day. In addition, I am also supporting the software development for our Covid-19 assay, along with its integration, support, and reliability within the Panther diagnostic system. Through my coursework and projects within the Computer Science department, SDSU has prepared me in a way that has allowed me to be cognizant of the complexity and performance of the algorithms I write, and the design decisions I choose during software implementation.”
Kevin Albertson, B.S.
Class of 2013: Biology
Kevin has been at Hologic for 5 years in the Quality Assurance department, working primarily on Post-Market Surveillance. He will be transitioning to a supervisory role in the manufacturing department and overseeing the chemists producing the reagents for the assays, including those used for COVID-19 testing. Hologic has released two diagnostic assays to test for active infections of COVID-19. These tests are run on the industry-leading Panther system, with each instrument capable of processing approximately 1,000 tests every day.
Arisa Iga Cale, B.S.
Class of 2016: Biology
Senior Research Associate
Arisa has been with Arcturus Therapeutics since 2015, starting as an intern while she was still finishing school at SDSU. Upon her graduation in 2016, she took a full-time position with the company and is now a Senior Research Associate. On her team, she develops the qualification and verification methods for pre-clinical study samples, including samples for COVID-19.
Phil White, Ph.D., M.S.
Class of 2015: Regulatory Affairs
CMC Therapeutic Area Lead, Infectious Diseases
Phil earned his B.S. in biology from University of Portsmouth, his Ph.D in microbiology from Oxford Brookes University and his M.S. in regulatory affairs from San Diego State University. Moderna is on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, working rapidly to develop a vaccine.
Whitney Boehm, B.S.
Class of 2015: Biochemistry
New Product Introduction Lead
“I currently work as a New Product Introduction Lead at Amgen and will be part of the transfer to manufacturing for a novel coronavirus antibody treatment developed in collaboration with Adaptive Biotechnologies. This partnership merges Adaptive’s proprietary immune medicine platform for the identification of virus-neutralizing antibodies with Amgen’s expertise in immunology and novel antibody therapy development. Additionally Amgen is investigating the effectiveness of Otezla®, an approved treatment for inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, as a potential immunomodulatory treatment in patients with COVID-19 in upcoming clinical trials. Working for Amgen has been an exciting new opportunity from the very first day, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come next. I believe my time at SDSU has really helped prepare me for the work I am now so passionate about and so fortunate to do every day. I would really like to highlight the efforts and contributions of my mentors Thelma Chavez and Dr. Christopher Harrison, without whom I would not be where I am today!”