For three years running, chemical engineering alumni have earned School-wide honors
The streak continues.
Shailendra V. Bordawekar received the 2019 Engineering Achievement Award, marking the third year in a row that a graduate of the Department of Chemical Engineering has won School-wide recognition at the University of Virginia School of Engineering’s annual Thornton Society Dinner.
The Achievement Award is given periodically to a UVA Engineering graduate who “has attained extraordinary distinction, national and/or international prominence, and success in his or her field of endeavor” and whose “achievements have brought credit to UVA and benefit to society.”
In 2017 and 2018 Marc Doyle and Paul Mensah were honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award during the Thornton Society event.
Bordawekar, who earned his M.S. in 1996 and Ph.D. in 1999, is vice president for process research and development at global biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. Although he trained in the catalysis lab of UVA’s William Mynn Thornton Professor Robert J. Davis, a highly respected and prolific researcher in the field of chemical reaction engineering, Bordawekar’s first job opportunity took him to DuPont, which soon sold its pharmaceutical company to Bristol-Myers Squibb.
In 2004, Abbott recruited him to strengthen its chemical engineering process development unit. He remained as Abbott created AbbVie in 2013 as a separate biopharmaceutical company and was named to his current position in 2018, leading an organization of 190 employees across multiple scientific disciplines.
Bordawekar’s group is responsible for developing active pharmaceutical ingredient processes to expedite pre‐clinical and clinical development of drugs, as well as technology transfer to commercial manufacturing facilities and supporting regulatory filings. The goal is to help life-changing or life-saving therapies reach the people who need them faster.
“The drug candidates that we make with the processes we develop end up in clinical studies, so patients are taking them,” Bordawekar said. “So, it is our responsibility to design robust processes that make high-quality drug candidates. Then, if we file a new drug application based on the success of those studies, our process is used to manufacture the approved product, and it benefits a much larger patient population.”
Under his leadership, AbbVie process research and development has helped the company market a cure for hepatitis C and treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and endometriosis.
“When you see the benefits of these medicines to patients, it’s very rewarding,” Bordawekar said.
AbbVie also supports development of drugs in collaboration with the non‐profit organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative. Bordawekar has supported these efforts since 2015 by volunteering his organization’s resources pro bono for the cause.
In a letter of recommendation for the Engineering Achievement Award, chemical engineering chair William S. Epling also noted Bordawekar’s contributions to the scientific community. He has authored or co‐authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and been awarded three patents.
“The high quality and diversity of his contributions to the scientific literature demonstrate enormous creativity and rare expertise in the areas of chemical engineering concepts applied to the pharmaceutical industry,” Epling wrote.
Additionally, Bordawekar is active in the professional community, serving the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in several roles. He also is involved with or leads several collaborations with academic institutions, such as the Center for Multiphase Flow Research and Education at Iowa State University.
Bordawekar supports UVA Engineering and the University by serving on the advisory board of the Chemical Engineering Department since 2017 and helping place or recruit students and graduates for internships and jobs. As a leadership sponsor of AbbVie’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, he also provides mentoring and career advice to younger colleagues and participates in organized events.
Bordawekar feels a responsibility to give back to UVA Engineering, and believes every graduate who benefited from his or her experience at UVA should do the same — and not only so that future students can have the same advantage.
“Whether it’s financial or offering students opportunities to interact with industry to help in their career development, input to the department’s research, or helping guide young faculty, all these things are very important,” he said. “The University and the department are training the future workforce, and it’s important that they get input on the needs of the industries where these graduates are going to work. If they are not getting that, they may not be able to train as effectively. I think it is our duty to do our part in making sure that happens in a sustainable manner.”
Among the advantages Bordawekar discovered at UVA chemical engineering was a culture of collaboration among faculty and students, he said. Davis was important to his development and was a strong mentor to him, Bordawekar said. He also counts Donald Kirwan and Elmer Gaden as mentors, although Gaden was already retired at the time. Both men were pioneers in biopharmaceutical research.
“In industry, you always have to work in teams,” he said. “I thought the chemical engineering department at UVA did that very well. There were many professors who had collaborative relationships in their research and in mentoring students, so that’s something that I found very valuable in my years there as a grad student.”
Bordawekar was part of an early group of graduate students to work in Davis’ lab.
“He helped set up my lab,” Davis said, recalling a persistent and resourceful scientist whose success leading AbbVie’s process research and development unit comes as no surprise. “We’re still using a piece of equipment that he built. I’m really pleased that Shailendra has received this honor. His individual accomplishments make him deserving, but I would also say that he’s a great example of how chemical engineering training prepares students for many scientific fields.”
The larger impact of chemical engineering crossed Epling’s mind, too.
“Shailendra is the kind of leader we want our graduates to be. How he accomplishes everything that he does, I don’t know, but I know that he is passionate about his work and that pushes him to excellence. His career not only reflects well on him, it makes our department and our profession look good. And, hey, it’s great to see the department getting recognized three years in a row.”