Talent looking to join Greater Philadelphia’s cell and gene therapy hub can hear firsthand from those living and working here about the industry’s opportunities and the region’s quality of life. So far, 11 talent ambassadors have shared their stories as part of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s “Discovery Starts with Me” series.

For the latest installment of our Discovery Starts with Me series, we sat down with Raechel Manrodt, Manufacturing Lead (Director) at Imvax. A clinical-stage biotechnology company, Imvax is leveraging its unique immunotherapy platform to develop a pipeline of personalized, whole tumor-derived treatments targeting intractable solid tumors, which represent a majority of adult cancers. The company’s current pipeline includes candidates to treat glioblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma, endometrial cancer, urothelial cancer, ovarian cancer, and colorectal carcinoma.

Greater Philadelphia’s cell and gene therapy sector is a collaborative industry, with large global organizations headquartered in our region, academic institutions producing new discoveries, and startup companies researching and manufacturing life-saving therapies. For Manrodt, who was looking to be hands-on in a small organization delivering big results, she found her place at Imvax as a Manufacturing Lead (Director).

“I started in March of 2021, so I’ve been here for about 18 months, give or take. I was employee number 18 over here, which was just really, really cool,” said Manrodt. “I was one of the very first Tech Ops employees that we had here, so when I came, we were beginning to grow this team. We hadn’t even started construction in our building. We knew what we wanted to build but didn’t know what it would look like. And something that I’ve always enjoyed in my career is starting something from the ground up, which is what we had here.”

A Philadelphia native, Manrodt describes herself as someone who is very creative and also thinks scientifically. After graduating high school, Manrodt pursued her creative passions – poetry, baking, photography, and floral design – while living on the West Coast. After moving back home to our region to be with her mother with multiple sclerosis (MS), Manrodt pivoted to fuel the scientific part of her brain and found her calling for cell and gene therapy.

“My mom couldn’t realize her dream of completing her med school degree, so part of my turn to science was finishing her legacy,” said Manrodt. “I thought maybe I wanted to be a doctor, but I decided to go into an area where I could have a different type of impact. I found that connection in cell and gene therapy.”

After returning to school to earn a Bachelor of Science in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience at Temple University and a Cell and Tissue Culture Certification at Bucks County Community College, Manrodt also attributes much of her evolving education to Greater Philadelphia’s robust cell and gene ecosystem.

“Greater Philadelphia has been a really great place for me to flex my curiosity and grow with organizations and as an individual. I really tell that to my teams as well; you can move up in your career really fast because there’s so much to learn. There are so many skills that you can develop, skills that you didn’t ever think were within your wheelhouse,” said Manrodt. “A great example is building the Imvax facility here. I never had any exposure to HVAC work, but pretty soon, I participated in the commissioning of the air handlers with our Facility Lead. I got a crash course in how air handlers and HVAC systems work! That information I learned I can take to another organization or another role and essentially say, ‘I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a pilot plant in Philadelphia.’”

To explore career opportunities in cell and gene therapy in the Greater Philadelphia region and join Manrodt and thousands of others in the mission to bring groundbreaking therapies to patients, visit Select Greater Philadelphia’s new job search tool here.

To hear other stories of cell and gene therapy talent throughout Greater Philadelphia, check out the rest of the videos in our Discovery Starts with Me series here.