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Park People: Cullen Whyte from Evotec

Published on 15 November 2022

This month, we caught up with Cullen Whyte, Facilities and Engineering Manager at leading drug discovery and development company Evotec, one of Milton Park’s largest occupiers.

Hi Cullen! Can you tell us a bit about Evotec in your own words…

Evotec is a fast-growing global drug discovery alliance and development partnership company which has been at Milton Park ever since its merger with Oxford Asymmetry International plc in 2000. Prior to that, Oxford Asymmetry had been based at Milton Park since 1989 after spinning out from the University of Oxford. Today there are over 800 employees based at our Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Campus at Milton Park from new graduates to experienced scientists and support staff.

The campus is one of Evotec’s most important and fast-growing, fully integrated co-located discovery and development centres. It’s home to a whole host of scientific functions such as: in-vitro pharmacology and protein sciences, structural biology, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, computational, synthetic and medicinal chemistry, formulation sciences, development chemistry and API manufacture.

The site is named after world-renowned chemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who studied crystallography at Oxford University’s Somerville College. She was later elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1947 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964 for determining the atomic structure of molecules such as penicillin and insulin using X-ray crystallography.

What does your role as Facilities & Engineering Manager involve?

I’m primarily responsible for ensuring that our discovery laboratories and offices, spanning across five buildings on Milton Park, are supporting the wider company and meeting the needs of the scientific teams in terms of their safety and operational efficiency.

Additionally, I work to source funding to replace assets which support campus growth – this also involves managing projects to refurbish or repurpose spaces to meet changing company needs and working with external design and construction partners.

My team is responsible for contracting or delivering planned and reactive maintenance, and working with the scientists to support them with laboratory equipment requirements and maintenance. 

A key aspect of my role is understanding and being in touch with the key priorities of the company, how our employees use the different spaces and the opportunities for improvement.

Tell us more about your involvement in the creation of Evotec’s Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Campus…

I joined Evotec in 2021 and was hired to project manage the fit-out of Building 95 alongside my wider Facilities Management responsibilities. Following the concept designs that were already in place, my initial focus was to seek a structure and governance that would ensure that all stakeholders were engaged and their views considered.

One of our goals for the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Campus at Milton Park is to install impactful sustainable features that significantly reduce COemissions in order to contribute towards Evotec’s internal carbon neutral targets. We invested in state-of-the-art heating and air technologies, replacing gas boilers with air source heat pumps, introduced a demand-based laboratory ventilation system and installed a range of low-energy appliances.

Construction of the building fit out began in August 2021 and we achieved practical completion nine months later. The speed of delivery was essential in order to meet our customer demand and consequent recruitment plans as all our available existing biology laboratory spaces were getting close to capacity.

The finished building is a flagship hub for our campus operations at Milton Park as well as providing  additional office, conference and restaurant space for our staff and 3,500 m2 of biology laboratory space to house a newly formed growing team.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the varied nature of my role and working with people at all levels in the company and also with our external partners. I’ve been managing facilities for many years and believe that everyone has an important role to play in creating effective, efficient and great working environments. So, by working with others to problem-solve, identify innovative solutions and provide reactive maintenance, it means I’m always learning and being exposed to new ways of thinking.

Could you tell us a bit more about Evotec’s involvement in Car Free Day this year?

I’m always surprised but really proud that so many of our employees based at Milton Park engage and participate in the Car Free Day initiative – it just shows how passionate people are and want to make a difference to improve our environment.

This year we retained our title from the last Car Free Day in 2019, winning the award for the highest percentage of people taking part in the event in the ‘Large Company’ category with 22% of our workforce walking, cycling, car-sharing or taking public transport to work!

Having completed this year’s Travel Survey, I’m very keen to explore the car-sharing opportunities available to me through the Park’s partnership with the KINTO Join platform. I used to car share at least once per week with two people in a previous role and it certainly made the journeys feel quicker!

What do you enjoy most about working at Milton Park?

I’m really proud to work in a location where there are so many excellent scientific companies helping to discover new therapies to address unmet medical needs. It’s often hard to describe to people outside this industry what goes on every day across all the companies, large and small, at the Park, seeking to develop future medicines so it’s reassuring to be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Through my role and the different providers we deal with, I’m also aware we’re incredibly fortunate to have access to such a great pool of talent and skills on our doorstep, either based at the Park or in the local Oxfordshire area. Our collaborations with providers in the local area have significantly helped to develop our drug discovery processes and move us forward as a company.

How does your life and work connect at Milton Park?

Having discovered a lot of the useful amenities at the Park such as the post office and pharmacy, I now use these regularly.

I’ve also used quite a few of the different walking paths in and around the Park and I’m always impressed with the effort that goes into making it an attractive and pleasant place to work. I appreciate the trees and landscaping around the Park and know from experience that it takes a high level of care and maintenance to create and maintain quality green spaces.

I always see lots of joggers around the Park during the middle of the day but I am often up early in the mornings to take my daughter swimming so instead I use this time to exercise before I get to work. I’m not a fan of the early mornings but I’m hoping that in the future I may start using the Park Club Gym on-site which has some great facilities.

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