Multiple chains of opportunity: Internship Challenge key to New England Peptide’s growth strategy

New England Peptide aims to provide custom peptide and antibody products and services, enabling their clients to bring their own products to market. The company’s client base extends from coast to coast in the United States. The Gardner, Massachusetts-based company has also shipped peptides to more than 30 different countries.

New England Peptide’s full-time headcount has grown steadily, currently around 60 employees, with significant growth in the past few years. The MLSC’s Internship Challenge continues to be key to that growth. The company is the largest user of the program in the decade since the Internship Challenge launched, having provided more than 30 internship opportunities.

“We see it is as an extension of our interview process,” said Brandon Smith, who serves as Director of Operations at New England Peptide. Brandon also helps oversee internship opportunities for the company. For Brandon and the team at New England Peptide, they see experiential learning opportunities as a two-way benefit.

“Interns are getting a real idea of what a full-time role would look like. Meanwhile, we are filling essential roles for different teams based on where help is most in need. Internships are part of our growth process.”

The MLSC annually provides more than 550 paid internship experiences for Massachusetts college students that enhance the talent pipeline for small to medium Massachusetts life sciences companies. Nearly 40 percent of interns that have completed college immediately matriculate to full-time employment with their company at the end of their internship.

At New England Peptide, interns gain experience through every area in the beginning to get an overview of the peptide making (and shipping) process. This provides internships a broad range, while also allowing the company to see where their strengths are for potential full-time roles.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute alumna Alyce Buchenan is one of many former interns afforded this opportunity and is now in a full-time role with New England Peptide. Alyce followed the path of intern to technician to now working as a synthesis manager, supervising a team of 14.

“I got to see a little bit of everything,” said Alyce looking back on her time as an intern. “My internship helped me understand what I wanted to do, learn about the culture of the company, and how I could contribute all at once.”

Alyce remembers getting the chance to gain hands-on experience in just the first week. It is something she appreciates often now as she engages current interns or new staff, who have similar questions and interests in learning more as she had when she was at the start of her own career.

“You don’t realize all the things you have learned until you start teaching someone else.”

Kyle Sargent, who now serves as an Amino Acid Analysis Lead, followed a similar path of earning a full-time role post-internship. Kyle, a native of Baldwinville, Massachusetts who studied chemistry at UMass Amherst, strongly credited the cross-training opportunities provided to him and other interns at New England Peptide.

“Our company provides a great structure that provides room to move up,” said Kyle. “It’s a real opportunity for you to put the work in and get out of it what you’re willing to put in.”

Beverly Sylvestre, who earned her associate’s degree through the biotech program at Mount Wachusett Community College, also lauds the cross-training opportunities provided to interns.

“They teach you everything you need to know,” said Bev, who now works on the shipping side having been with the company for more than seven years. “You get to do a little bit of everything, find your strengths, and move into a position you can grow in.”

As the longest running MLSC program, the Internship Challenge enables small companies to hire paid interns by connecting them with candidates through an online platform and reimbursing them for intern stipends. Since its inception in 2009, the Internship Challenge has produced more than 4,000 internships at nearly 800 companies throughout Massachusetts. It has grown to be the single largest state-sponsored STEM internship program in the United States, and serves as a nationwide model.