The son of a NASA engineer, Dr. John Erickson ’82 has always had a natural curiosity and passion for innovation. He joined the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) in 2019 as a senior fellow and has been the acting chief technology officer since 2020. At NIIMBL, John applies his perspective and extensive industry experience to help ensure that NIIMBL investments are aligned with current industry needs. He supports the management of a portfolio of impactful projects, and helps lead technology initiatives and projects that will benefit the biopharmaceutical manufacturing ecosystem.
John received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry from Amherst College and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). John initially worked in industrial enzymology at Rhône-Poulenc before joining the biopharmaceutical industry and working for GSK. There, he held a variety of roles in process development, project management, and manufacturing for over 29 years. One of the highlights of his time there was working with other industry colleagues on the A-mAb case study that brought to life the concepts of Quality by Design. Most recently, John served as vice president, biopharmaceutical and steriles manufacturing science and technology, where he was responsible for scientific oversight and support for commercial biopharmaceutical drug substance and sterile fill/finish of biopharmaceuticals and small molecules.
Q: Was there an Aha or Eureka moment at Amherst after which you knew the career to pursue?
A: I came to Amherst with interests in math and science and a desire to discover something novel but didn’t have a specific career plan. In my junior year at Amherst, my father took a sabbatical to teach chemical engineering at MIT. When I was home for Thanksgiving, he introduced me to some of his colleagues, one of whom did research in biochemical engineering. He talked about using enzymes to make medicines and other compounds that couldn’t be made otherwise. Recombinant DNA was still very new then; and I think he also talked about making novel medicines from living cells in culture. I remember sitting in his office thinking, “This is it!” I could use biology, chemistry and math in the same field.