When Dubai native Keith Runes was 18 years old, he moved to the United States from the United Arab Emirates to study bioengineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, and he hasn’t left the East Coast since.

Runes always knew that he wanted to enter the medical field, and his time at Lehigh allowed him to see what different paths his career could take. 

“I went to school for my bachelor’s in bioengineering, specifically mechanical engineering,” said Runes. “So think along the lines of making prosthetics for patients – I was interested in that aspect of medicine. But while I was at school, I had the opportunity to work a co-op at Sanofi in the Poconos in its manufacturing technology department. They specialized in developing new laboratory methods to characterize the drugs they’re producing.”

Working at a large pharmaceutical company helped Runes realize his interest in the early stages of drug development.

“After I graduated from Lehigh, I went back to the Poconos to work a similar role and eventually was looking for a new position in a new city,” said Runes. “I wanted to stay in the Mid-Atlantic area, and Philadelphia seemed like the perfect fit. Looking at other life sciences hubs, Philadelphia crossed more things off the list for me.”

Not only did Greater Philadelphia provide Runes with an affordable and vibrant quality of life, easy access to visit his friends and family along the East Coast, and a job opportunity as a Senior Research Associate at WuXi Advanced Therapies, a business unit of WuXi AppTec, but the region also provided a unique hub for someone interested in cell and gene therapy.

“I was surprised to see that there were so many big pharmaceutical companies in the area,” said Runes. “And not only is there a presence of large companies, but what made me really fall in love with the region was the number of companies in Philadelphia that are specialized in very niche areas, making therapies that are very specific for patients with rare diseases. This is what especially drew me to WuXi Advanced Therapies as well.”

Runes feels the presence of these companies throughout his workday, especially at WuXi Advanced Therapies’ location at the Navy Yard campus in South Philadelphia. 

“The nature of the work we do is very collaborative because we work with clients,” said Runes. “We work with other companies to get their drugs developed. Even when I’m waiting in line for lunch at a food truck on campus, I’m surrounded by like-minded people who are all working to better the lives of patients, no matter what company they work at. There’s no competitive sense or anything; everyone has respect for each other and the work that we’re doing. It’s a really unique opportunity that I’m glad to experience every day.”

When Runes leaves the Navy Yard at the end of the day, he often hops on his bike for his commute. 

“I love how bikeable Philly is and that I can even commute to work in a 25-minute ride,” said Runes. “My ideal day probably includes me and my wife biking, exploring new places in Philly, and stopping to check out new food spots. I feel the most freedom on my bike, it opens up so much of the city.”

To explore career opportunities in cell and gene therapy in the Greater Philadelphia region and join Keith Runes and thousands of others in the mission to bring groundbreaking therapies to patients, visit Select Greater Philadelphia’s new job search tool here.

To learn more about what it means to live and work in the life sciences in Greater Philadelphia, watch more of our “Discovery Starts with Me” series here.