For the Record with Paul Josephs, President and CEO, Lifecore Biomedical

June 7  

Paul Josephs recently joined Chaska-based pharmaceutical contract manufacturer Lifecore Biomedical as President & CEO. Paul brings more than 30 years of pharmaceutical industry experience to Lifecore, including 25 years in contract manufacturing. Prior to his recent appointment, he served as President & Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors for Woodstock Sterile Solutions.

Give us some background on Lifecore Biomedical.

Lifecore is a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for injectable pharmaceutical products. That means that we help pharmaceutical companies manufacture liquid solutions that we fill into vials and syringes, ultimately for use treating patients.

We also manufacture a substance called Hyaluronic Acid, which many people have heard of as an ingredient in skin care products. Our Hyaluronic Acid is a pharmaceutical-grade product which can be used for research or added to pharmaceutical formulations. It is commonly used in ophthalmic and orthopedic treatments.

While these descriptions may seem straightforward, what we do is complex. Like increasing a recipe, imagine scaling up a formulation to go from producing a small batch to something ten times greater. And, doing so while maintaining the correct properties of each final dose prior to filling in a vial or syringe. The scientific and engineering challenges are intense, in addition to strict quality and safety requirements.

Plus, with multiple, in-depth studies and clinical trials, the average drug product takes 10-15 years to gain regulatory approval for use in patients. That means our projects require management and collaboration with customers over extended periods of time, sometimes spanning decades.           

What is one thing the Medical Alley community might be unaware of about Lifecore that you think would be good to know?

If you or someone you know has had cataract surgery, there’s a good chance that a Lifecore-manufactured surgical tool called an Ophthalmic Viscosurgical Device (OVD) was used by the surgeon. The OVD’s we produce contain Hyaluronic Acid and have a gel-like consistency that helps protect and maintain the shape of the eye during a procedure. Lifecore works with several companies in the ophthalmic space to manufacture these products for use globally.   

What are some upcoming milestones for Lifecore?

One of the most exciting, near-term milestones will be completing the installation and validation of a new filling machine. This huge machine, which was sourced from Germany, took more than two years for the vendor to produce. We had to undergo a major facility renovation to get it through the door and to create the appropriate space for it to operate. Once this is completed, it will add to our manufacturing capacity which means we’ll be able to produce more products for patients. We expect to complete the process in the third quarter of 2024.

Another upcoming milestone will be Lifecore’s 60th anniversary in 2025. Originally founded by Dr. Otto Sartorius as American Medical Research, Lifecore’s product and service offerings have evolved throughout the decades. However, we have always maintained a focus on improving people’s lives. We’re proud of this legacy, and of our continuing service to customers and millions of patients.        

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

Two things come to mind when I think about the best career advice. The first is to surround yourself with great people. I have been blessed to work with wonderful individuals who have made me a better individual, personally and professionally. I am also lucky to have a strong professional network of individuals who genuinely want to help me succeed.

The second is to embrace failure; view it as a learning opportunity to help you grow. I have made several mistakes in my career, but I look back and firmly believe that they have served as a platform for me to grow.

The worst career advice that I received was to play it safe. I believe stepping out of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks can lead to significant professional growth. If I had played it safe throughout my career, I would not be in my current position.

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?

Seeing the personal and professional success of individuals that I have had the opportunity to lead as they’ve advanced in their careers to become organizational leaders.

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

Run at least one half-marathon.

How do you relax/decompress?

I love to be active. Walking, running, playing tennis or golf are activities that I regularly engage in to help me relax. With that said, my golf game is also a consistent and ongoing source of frustration.

Why do you think the Medical Alley community is important?

All of us working in Medical Alley are tied to patients and their health, and that shared focus fosters connection and collaboration. For instance, we are attending the 2024 BIO International Convention in a booth sponsored by the Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Sharing our MN story alongside other well-known organizations brings visibility to the ecosystem that enables Lifecore’s success – via access to local resources, talent, and support. Compared to Boston or California, many prospective pharmaceutical customers are not as familiar with Minnesota’s medical ecosystem. Reminding them that we are neighbors with renowned groups like the University of Minnesota, Boston Scientific, Medtronic, and the Mayo Clinic reinforces the idea that outsourcing their injectables manufacturing to MN offers many advantages.

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