STEM Pros:

Sango Kasongo: Quality Control Analyst II

Quality Control Analyst II

Forge Biologics

Please provide a summary of your job or research. What is an average day like? What are some duties performed?

After other teams develop and manufacture drug products, my team and I are responsible for the analytical testing to ensure their safety, purity, and efficacy. We may test safety and purity by conducting experiments to detect the presence of foreign materials (such as human DNA, spores, etc.) or cell by-products. We test efficacy by performing experiments to determine how much target virus is in the product, identify the optimal dose, or verify if the product works at all.

An average day for me consists of checking if any samples need testing. If there are samples to test, I go to the lab and put on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a lab coat, shoe covers, safety glasses, and gloves. Once I’m suited up, I prepare my lab station to conduct my experiment, making sure to document the process along the way, including the sample, materials, and equipment used. After completing my experiment, I ensure that my area is thoroughly cleaned, as maintaining a sterile and aseptic environment is crucial in science. I then review my results and documentation and pass them on to a peer and eventually to a manager for final approval. And that’s my day!

What is your educational background and what prompted you to go this direction?

My background is in neuroscience with a specialization in behavioral neuroscience. My love for behavioral genetics classes led me to my profession. I have always been fascinated by how much nature and nurture intermingle, especially on the genetic side. Gene therapy is incredibly fulfilling to me because we can create medicine to treat rare genetic disorders. Disorders that were once difficult, if not impossible, to treat and left families distraught, now have treatments that allow individuals to regain control of their lives. This is nothing short of incredible.

What have you struggled with or overcome in your educational path or life path to get to this point?

I struggled the most with debating whether pursuing a PhD would be the best path for me. In a straightforward journey, it makes sense: four years of college and another four years of post-grad to become an expert in my field. However, due to COVID-19, everything turned upside down. What was supposed to be a gap year before grad school turned into a shift in goals and ambitions. I quickly entered the industry side of things post-undergrad and met many amazing people without PhDs who were still making an incredible impact. They reaffirmed to me that whichever path I choose, I should do it with certainty and passion. Maybe one day I will go back for a PhD, but today, my impact on this world is still significant with or without it.


What is the best part of your job/research?

The best part of my job is the novelty of the field of gene therapy. We can see in real-time how our work is helping others and when we need to reevaluate. There’s an excitement in creating foundational principles within this field and using those foundations for its advancement. Every other month, I hear of a company or new product with viable results. It’s inspiring. There are so many more people in this world to help with this research, and sooner or later, that concept will become reality.

What is the worst part? 

While the novelty is exciting, it can also be disheartening. Some projects may get stuck in research and development (R&D) because, although we are very smart and creative individuals, we don’t know what we don’t know. How many people are waiting for a product to treat their ailments that we’re just not there yet because the research is still too new?

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I love being around like-minded people with a common goal. It’s easy to just do the science, go home, and come back the next day to do it again. But my coworkers and I all have a true belief that what we do matters today and tomorrow.

What has changed about your profession in the past ten years?

Different techniques for gene therapy are developing and refining. Currently, using adeno-associated virus (AAV) or lentivirus is the most standard way to transport the proper gene into individuals with various genetic disorders. However, CRISPR-Cas9, which has been around for decades, allows for precise genetic modification. CAR-T is effective for cancer, modifying an individual’s T-cells to target and destroy cancer cells.

What do you think will change in the next ten?

I’m sure more and more techniques for gene therapy will be discovered and refined!