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Women in Business  March 10, 2022

Globetrotting pharma manager lands at Boulder’s AGC Biologics Inc.

BOULDER — With only about two years on the Boulder biosciences scene, AGC Biologics Inc. is still a relative newcomer on the block, but the woman hired as general manager of the city’s manufacturing facility is an industry veteran.

Regina Choi-Rivera, hired as Boulder general manager last month, joins the organization from South Korea-based life-sciences firm Samsung Biologics.

In fact, she moved from Korea to Boulder without ever having visited the city. 

A self-described “Korean-born American,” Choi-Rivera moved to New York City at the age of 17 before receiving both engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan. 

She began her career in New Jersey working for Lockwood Greene Engineers before making a couple of other stops at state-side biotech companies.

Choi-Rivera then backtracked  to Korea to work for Samsung Biologics, a life-sciences spinoff from the multinational conglomerate Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

“It was very intriguing to go back to Korea where I came from and where I still have family members living,” she told BizWest. In fact, many of Choi-Rivera’s close family members who had immigrated with her to the United States were back in Korea by the time she returned to the land of her birth.

“That was a driver for me to go back to Korea,” she said. “But at the same time I was able to be part of a growing start-up from the beginning, which provided me with experience and the opportunity to learn corporate culture in Korea.”

The decision to move back to the U.S. “was very personal,” Choi-Rivera said, as she has three children attending college stateside.

“My family had been apart for a very long time, so it was time,” she said of the decision to reunite.

At AGC in Boulder, Choi-Rivera will oversee a contract development manufacturing organization, or CDMO, which makes drugs on behalf of other pharmaceutical companies. 

“As a CDMO, we’re reducing the cost of pharmaceutical development and also manufacturing,” she said. “We manufacture for large companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer [and use competitive advantages] to make more affordable medicine for people around the world. So I have great pride in working for a CDMO”

The Boulder plant specializes in protein-based biologics, known as large-molecule therapies.

“I’ve worked in biopharmaceuticals for more than 25 years, and I’ve found that working with large molecules is very different than with small molecules as far as the culture of the business and the impact we have,” Choi-Rivera said. The needs for large molecules are growing by leaps and bounds because of the effectiveness provided to the patient.”

The Boulder facility “is very, very special because it’s [AGC’s] only facility with a 20,000-liter stainless steel bioreactor,” which is about 10 times the size of the equipment in the company’s other locations, which includes a plant in Longmont, she said. “That means we can provide a lot more affordable drugs and manufacture a lot quicker. AGC’s Boulder site can be the growth engine for the entire AGC Biologics organization.”

Choi-Rivera takes over leadership of the Boulder plant during a challenging time for the drug manufacturing industry, both from a talent recruitment and supply-chain perspective. 

The operation expects to add about 50 employees per year until full build out in about 2025. At that point, the Boulder AGC operation’s headcount will be around 300 workers.

Supply-chain issues, a concern for many industries, are “compounded by the need for vaccines and therapeutics” for COVID-19, which “are also manufactured in large-molecule sites,” Choi-Rivera said. 

“We have a lot of innovative ways we’re using to get over that type of challenge,” she said. For example, AGC is investing in equipment that can be used both for manufacturing COVID-19 treatments and other types of large-molecule therapies.

BOULDER — With only about two years on the Boulder biosciences scene, AGC Biologics Inc. is still a relative newcomer on the block, but the woman hired as general manager of the city’s manufacturing facility is an industry veteran.

Regina Choi-Rivera, hired as Boulder general manager last month, joins the organization from South Korea-based life-sciences firm Samsung Biologics.

In fact, she moved from Korea to Boulder without ever having visited the city. 

A self-described “Korean-born American,” Choi-Rivera moved to New York City at the age of 17 before receiving both engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of…

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