Carnegie Mellon University
October 03, 2023

From Class to the Lab

Divyam Shah researches at the intersection of biotechnology and pharmaceutical engineering

Sherry Stokes
  • Senior Marketing and Communications Manager, College of Engineering
  • 412-268-5976
Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

As a product development intern at Lonza this summer, Divyam Shah put into practice skills he learned through Carnegie Mellon University's Master's in Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Engineering (MS-BTPE) program, a joint program between the Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Biological Sciences.

"I worked on high performance liquid chromatography and UV spectroscopy. All those concepts were taught to me by (Chemical Engineering Professor) Jim Schneider," he said. In his second semester, Shah took a bioseparations and spectroscopy course taught by Schneider.

Lonza is of the world's largest contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMO), and Shah was at their R&D site in Tampa, Florida, where they test how to manufacture small pharmaceutical tablets and then transfer the technology to the manufacturing team in preparation for clinical trials.

Shah's work at Lonza involved optimizing and developing new formulations and novel drug delivery systems.

"For example, I'm working on tiny tablets that can be delivered through a nasogastric tube," he said. "By going through the nose and directly into the stomach, this drug delivery system helps patients who are unconscious or who cannot swallow."

Shah studied mechanical engineering in high school, and then pivoted to chemical engineering. He said the field fascinated him because everything from water to headphones is made of chemicals. After completing his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in India, he knew he needed a graduate degree to work in the biopharmaceutical industry. Carnegie Mellon's MS-BTPE program offered him the biological sciences background he lacked.

The MS-BTPE program was formed in 2019 to prepare students with bachelor's degrees in biology and engineering for careers in the pharmaceutical industry. In bringing together students from both disciplines, the program mirrors what happens in industry.

Shah plans to go into pharmaceutical research and development. Courses on protein-based drug development and immunoengineering drug development are preparing him for this path. 

"In these courses, I've been involved in projects designing novel drugs and novel targets for drugs," he said.

Shah will wrap up his degree in December. Until then, he's working in the lab of chemistry Professor Danith H. Ly, where he is CAR-T cell therapy with a molecular switch using FITC-Folate and oligonucleotide complexes. CAR-T cells are genetically engineered to bind to cancer cells and kill them.

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