The Marine Biological Lab: Finding Answers Beneath the Ocean

cuttlefish

Marine animals are fascinating. Not only are their appearances alien-like (think tentacles, suckers and bioluminescence). But many have also developed unique capabilities unlike anything you see on land.

In fact, most of the biodiversity of the world lies beneath the ocean. According to the World Register of Marine Species, there are more than 400,000 marine species, and it is estimated that 91% of marine species have yet to be identified. Studying marine animals may help us learn more about how we evolved and even lead to new ways to study and treat human diseases. At the forefront of marine biology research is the Marine Biological Lab (MBL), located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

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A Valuable AP Biology Throwback

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Isobel Utschig, a science teacher at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, WI. We bring this to you in celebration of #TeacherAppreciationWeek 2020

About 10 years ago, I attended a field trip at the Biopharmaceutical Technology Center Institute with my AP Biology classmates. I felt apprehensive upon seeing the micropipettes and other “foreign” lab supplies on the benchtops. We learned that we would be using enzymes to cut DNA and visualize those different fragments on a gel. I marveled at the glowing streaks and found it incredible that I was looking (albeit indirectly) at real pieces of DNA. As we moved into the genetic transformation activity I was even more intrigued. We opened the tubes of bacteria and added some luciferase DNA, which would allow the bacteria to create a light-producing protein.  We then “heat shocked” the bacteria to coax them to take up these plasmids from their environment looking at the bacteria later, their glow revealed our success. The day flew by and at the end I marveled at all that we had done!

Students from Dominican High School AP Biology busy at work 
during a BTC Institute field trip
Students from Dominican High School AP Biology busy at work
during a BTC Institute field trip

Three years later I joined a research lab at Marquette University. Upon seeing the lab benches full of unfamiliar equipment, the same wave of apprehension came over me. My PI introduced me to the first task: digest a plasmid with restriction enzymes and verify the cut with gel electrophoresis. Memories of the high school field trip flooded my mind as I gripped a micropipette and attempted to nimbly load the wells. While I greatly improved in my skills over the course of the summer, the familiarity I had from my trip to the BTC Institute put me at ease from the beginning.  

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Earth Day 2020: Celebrating Nature During A Pandemic

Since Wisconsin issued a Safer at Home order on March 25, I have been leaving my home exactly once a week. Every Tuesday morning, I drive to a small town outside of Madison to spend an hour monitoring a nest of bald eagles. I’ve been volunteering for Bald Eagle Nest Watch since the beginning of the year, and three weeks ago I got my first look at two newly hatched eaglets. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found that my time at the eagle nest is a wonderful relief from the stress of the pandemic and the confinement to my home.

I’m not the only person escaping to natural spaces for relief during the widespread lockdowns in response to COVID-19. Parks have been filled with people taking daily walks and enjoying fresh air when there are few places indoors they can safely go. Besides encouraging many people to visit local parks and forests, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many complexities of humanity’s relationship with the environment. The severe drop in human activities has resulted in decreased air pollution, as well as fascinating changes in wildlife behavior. However, the pandemic is also an important reminder that the environmental impact of human activity has drastic consequences for global risk of infectious disease. This Earth Day, it’s the perfect time to pause and examine how the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural world are influencing each other for better and for worse.

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Meeting Customer Needs in Response to Market Dynamics: Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Today’s blog is written by Chuck York, VP of Manufacturing Operations at Promega.

Coronavirus SARS-2-CoV continues to fuel unprecedented demand for COVID-19 related products. Once a term relegated to virology research labs, “coronavirus” is now a household term and a global crisis that has upended lives, disrupted entire economies and shaken our sense of normalcy.

Clinicians, researchers, government officials and the general public are understandably concerned about the availability of reagents for coronavirus testing. At Promega, we are hearing the needs and concerns of our scientific colleagues and partners, and we are doing all that we can to help alleviate them.

At Promega, we are hearing the needs and concerns of our scientific colleagues and partners, and we are doing all that we can to help alleviate them.

As a global company with thousands of products, we have been meeting customer demand in response to market dynamics for decades. Our long-term approach has served customers well. Our efforts to provide support for the COVID-19 response began in early January, with our work with our colleagues and customers in China. We are applying what we’ve learned to propel us forward in the most efficient way now.  

We continue to increase production of all COVID-19 related reagents and instruments due to an unprecedented increase in global demand. Production lines that were running one shift 5 days a week are now operating 3 shifts seven days a week, and we continue to take measures to increase our manufacturing capacity.

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Building a Collaborative Research Network to Address a Rare Disease

Early June 2016

Chris had extreme leg pain off and on for about a month. Pain that came and went, creeping in slowly but sometimes with extreme intensity. Based on x-rays an orthopedist diagnosed a torn hamstring that was on the mend. We were sent home to rest and ice his muscles.

One Sunday Chris played in the pool for 5 hours straight and didn’t wince once. The following week he was fine so he went to soccer practice on Wednesday and swim team practice the next day. At 11:30 that night he woke up screaming in pain. Same leg. Same spot. Back again.

Late June 2016

We were on vacation in Greece. The pain started again, severe and intense and scary, so bad he couldn’t sleep lying down in a bed.  Desperate, we ended up in a Greek hospital… the local pediatrician was wonderful and recommended we fly home and see an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible…a terrifying flight home: No answers and a pit in our stomachs. Chris was in a wheelchair.

July 2016

We finally got the orthopedist to order the MRI. The MRI results were what every parent fears: “leukemia or lymphoma” and a referral to an oncologist.  After many invasive tests, the oncologist said it was probably not cancer.  We felt such relief, but we were left with no answers for all his pain. We moved on to infectious disease.

August 2016

The infectious disease specialist said they could not culture anything so they didn’t believe that Chris had an infection. Again, incomplete answers.  We were then passed off to rheumatology.  The frustration of not having any answers and our child still in pain was heart-breaking, isolating, and terrifying.

Based on the bone biopsy and MRIs the rheumatologists finally gave Chris a diagnosis: Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (CRMO often pronounced “chromo” for short).

The good news: it was not cancer; the bad news: very little is known about CRMO because it is a rare disease.

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How Does Our Garden Grow?

It’s the time of year in the northern US when you start to the miss green grass, ample daylight and warm breezes that are still months away. The promise of spring’s renewal and seedlings sprouting from the snow-covered ground seems too far out to even indulge in a daydream of better weather.

But then again, I’m not a farmer.                                                    

The Promega Culinary Garden at Bluebird Farms.

Now is the time of year when farmers are reflecting on last year’s harvest, making decisions about changes that need to be made and planning for the upcoming growing season. This work includes choosing what plants and varieties will be planted, estimating how many of each are needed and ordering the seeds. Crop rotation and cover crops are also part of the considerations.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that Promega has a culinary garden that supplies some of the produce for our cafeterias on the Madison campus. During the growing season our Culinary Gardener, Logan Morrow, oversees the operations of Bluebird Farms with the help of his colleage Mike Daugherty.

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New Year, New Buildings, Same Commitment to Sustainability

In times of rapid growth, we look to the future with excitement while also assuring that our expansion is sustainable. The Promega Global Facilities Planning Team emphasizes environmental stewardship and long-term planning. Each building is designed to meet ambitious sustainability goals, and innovations incorporated into each project inform the next. In 2019, we finished construction on two new buildings in Europe and made progress on two important facilities at our headquarters in Wisconsin.

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Sustainability Makeover: Parking Ramp Edition

parking_ramp_solar_panels

As Promega grows globally and locally here at headquarters, the construction of new and expanding facilities are considered with great care to ensure a commitment to sustainability. Between April and November of 2019, the parking ramp located near the Feynman Center received a massive upgrade with long-term impacts on the company’s sustainability goals.

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Stakeholder Capitalism—40 Years Later

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Penny Patterson, VP Corporate Communications at Promega.

The idea that businesses need to serve and provide value to constituents in addition to shareholders is one that has gained increasing recognition since last summer when the Business Roundtable issued its “Statement on the Purpose of the Corporation.”   The topic of what some call “stakeholder capitalism” is surfacing again heading into the World Economic Forum this week.

Promega has practiced “stakeholder capitalism” for more than 40 years and, as we’ve shared through our corporate responsibility reporting for the last decade, we have seen meaningful impact. From our founding in 1978, we have taken a “whole human” approach to our business. For us this means growing a financially stable and profitable company that considers and benefits science, employees, customers, community, shareholders and all global residents.

This approach starts with our people. We live the notion that every one of our employees has the potential to make a meaningful difference. And they do. Here are just a few examples. Our manufacturing and operations teams deliver with 99% accuracy and a complaint rate of 0.004%.  Discoveries by our R&D scientists generate some of the most read papers among key science journals. The average tenure of our leadership team is 18 years, and over half of these leaders grew their careers and capabilities at Promega.

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Green Chemistry is Better Chemistry

When you think of sustainability, what comes to mind? Immediately, my brain imagines vast collections of plastic in the ocean and carbon emissions from millions of cars. I’m guessing that, like me, you didn’t think about optimizing the synthesis of chemical reactions to reduce toxicity or energy usage. Although we’re often focused on the more visible forms of waste, sustainability applies to an enormous range of human activities.

Promega is committed to integrating the principles of sustainability across all aspects of our business. One recent area of focus for our PBI branch is a shift toward Green Chemistry. PBI synthesizes reagents and small molecules used in Promega products. After deciding “it was the right thing to do for our customers and for the environment,” the leader of Promega’s Corporate Responsibility Program, Corey Meek, assembled a few individuals to start a conversation about implementing Green Chemistry principles.

“It was the right thing to do for our customers and for the environment.”

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