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John Cobb – Scientist Spotlight

Pharmaceutical Sciences

Meet the MRIGlobal expert who assesses the effect of environmental stresses on medications.

John Cobb manages technical staff in MRIGlobal’s Pharmaceutical Analysis Group, which performs analytical work for both government and commercial clients.  John’s work has supported industrial and pharmaceutical products studies and has supported several programs at the National Cancer Institute.  As a project manager and experienced analytical chemist, he is often sought to be a primary contact and technical expert who guides clients from planning to project completion.  John has a B.S. Chemistry degree from Truman State University and ten years of experience on government and commercial pharmaceutical projects.

DOWNLOAD John Cobb’s Gaining Ground in the War on Cancer WHITE PAPER

Get to know more about John Cobb

1) How does your team approach client relationships and help clients achieve success?

Exceeding our clients’ expectations is our goal. As an example, a client asked us to analyze a drug product for potency using a method developed at another company. The product was a new formulation that had not yet been tested with the provided method. Our team ran the method, but the new formulation was not meeting the required potency criteria. This could have meant scrapping the drug batch and developing a new one at great cost to the client, losing valuable time in the development process.

Though our project only required us to do the analysis and report results, we took the extra step and investigated why the new formulation did not meet requirements. We discovered that the true problem was not the drug product, but the method. The method needed modifications in order to analyze the new formulation accurately. Our team was able to deliver and execute a corrected method with supplemental validation capable of analyzing the new formulation. Our client was very happy that they did not have to go back and reformulate the drug.

We consider our clients as our partners, so their problems are our problems. We are frequently complimented on our flexibility and creative approach to complex problem solving. Clients value those qualities and have come to expect them from MRIGlobal.

2) What was your pathway to becoming a scientist?

Science captivated me more than any other area of study since middle and high school. I liked science fiction and fantasy stories, and science is the real world of those imaginary realms. I also liked the sense of discovering the unknown and the utility that science brings to the world.

I entered college with an undeclared major, but chose chemistry by my second semester because it’s an area full of practical applications. I earned my degree from Truman State University and joined MRIGlobal 10 years ago, shortly after graduation. My work in chemistry allows me to have a positive effect on the world, and I’m now working on my master’s in pharmaceutical chemistry.

3) What work do you do at MRIGlobal?

Getting a drug to market can take over 10 years, costs millions of dollars, and includes a maze of requirements. I help MRIGlobal clients navigate the pharmaceutical analysis part of that maze. As a project manager, I work with the client and our analytical chemistry team to provide services our governmental and commercial clients need.  It’s satisfying to know that my work helped propel a new life-saving drug into clinical trials and eventually to market.

Some clients need new or radiolabeled compounds created, so we also offer synthetic chemistry options and repository support as well. We store hundreds of drug compound variations and ship them to vendors for our clients.

Part of my work is for the National Cancer Institute. NCI focuses on the early clinical stage – work on investigational and new drugs. MRIGlobal stores and tests these drugs under various conditions, such as cold temperatures, elevated humidity and high heat, using our in-house environmental chambers to test for stability and potency. If the drug tests well in these stress conditions, NCI can be sure it will work well and remain stable during clinical trials. Our work ensures that drugs people take are safe and effective.

4) Do you sometimes work on projects outside the drug realm?

Right now, I’m working with a client that has a natural product, similar to a bark or a plant. MRIGlobal is analyzing that product to quantify its potency and determine its stability. It involves a lot of creative and strategic thinking on the project, because the standard chemical analysis procedures don’t necessarily apply in this case.

5) What are your interests outside of work?

I like to bike, and I bike to work when the weather permits. But ultimate frisbee is my go-to sport. I also like to travel internationally. Turkey has been my favorite destination so far. I visited Istanbul and the central region. Cappadocia, in particular, has a vibrant and interesting culture and history. My next trip is to southeast Asia. I’m planning to backpack through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.