MORRISONVILLE — Joseph J. “Joe” Lewis is a mild-mannered grandpa of three.
Grandson Cooper Harbol has a shot at The Citadel, if he chooses, and Maya and Maxwell attend the Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico.
His daughters, Karen and Rae Michelle, earned advanced degrees — accounting, MBA, public health — and they steer the next generation to love education as much as their grandfather, who rose from Mississippi Jim Crow roots to senior chemist at global pharmaceuticals such as Zeneca and Smithkline Beckman.
Job opportunities landed Joe at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Westchester and then at Rouses Point.
“Wyeth needed a person up here,” the Morrisonville resident said.
“I was working there in quality and regulatory affairs. Wyeth needed a process chemist here. That’s a chemist that works on processes, making large-scale quantities of stuff and developing procedures. You find out if something is viable, a drug, okay. And if it looks like it’s viable enough and if they need larger quantities of it.”
Sometimes, the process used to make the small amount might not be efficient.
“They may want to use a process, a method of making it, that’s somewhat environmental friendly, that’s cheaper and one that can be converted into industrial manufacturing,” he said.
“So that’s what I did. If something went on further enough, I had to use what is called a technology transfer.”
For two years as a compliance coordinator, he prepared annual product reviews, investigated marketed product customer complaints, revised standard operating procedures, provided standard operating procedures training, performed trend analyses and initiated and accepted special projects assignments as needed.
In Rouses Point, he was a research scientist II for seven years.
He scaled up laboratory and kilo-lab synthetic processes in a pilot plant to prepare bulk active pharmaceutical ingredients for drug safety and efficacy training.
He prepared batch masters to run in a pilot plant and monitored batches under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations.
He supported the pilot plant by troubleshooting, developing and/or optimizing chemical processes, and he also assisted in technical transfer packages.
“Then Pfizer bought the company and within a year after that Pfizer started closing the facility,” Joe said.
While at Wyeth, and previously at Zeneca, he attended scientific spheres to recruit young chemists.
He also mentored and supervised summer interns.
“While I was doing that, I decided I wanted to start teaching, sort of give something back,” Joe said.
He served as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh, where he taught organic chemistry laboratories, directed undergraduate research, evaluated student performance and mentored students about chemistry careers for six years under the supervision of Dr. Dexter Criss, a professor of chemistry at the college.
ONCE A CHEMIST
Afterward, Joe did a short stint as a part-time compliance administrator consultant for Belcam in Rouses Point.
“They brought me in to write a standard operating procedure,” he said.
The four-month appointment lasted more than a year.
These days, he is not preparing batch masters but is a grill master of Deep South BBQ Services, which he launched three years ago.
His clientele relish his brisket, pulled pork, ribs and chicken.
He does impart some of his chemistry background in his scrumptious, mouth-watering product.
“Say for instance when I do things like pulled pork, I make up an injection that I inject into the pork to keep it moist and flavorful,” Joe said.
“I use commercial rubs. There are some really good ones out there in the barbecue world. You’re not going to get them at a regular commercial grocery store or place like that.”
A MIND NOT AT REST
When he puts away his chef hat and apron, his mind turns to science and his strong interest in Dravet Syndrome, once known as severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), which impacts 1 in 15,700 individuals.
“This is the kind that affects kids mostly,” Joe said.
“Kids can sometimes have 100 attacks a day.”
He is at work on a draft proposal, “Aza Analogs of Cannabidiol.”
At one time, he did research on cannabinoids to make animals eat more.
“Most beef animals are finished off in feed lots in this country,” Joe said.
“That’s why the beef here is more tender.”
Though the cows are allowed free range, before they go to market their ranged is limited.
“So, they can’t move a lot,” Joe said.
“They get a little more fat and marbling in the meat. I was working in an area where we wanted to get them through the feed lots faster.”
He and others were seeking growth promoters, chemical compounds to make the cows grow.
“The other thing was to make them utilize their feed more efficiently,” he said.
“So, we would give them a chemical to do that.”
He is interested in creating different types of derivatives to test their efficacy in reducing epileptic seizure frequency.
“This is based on some work I did years ago when I was working, when I was making marijuana-type compounds for growth promoters,” Joe said.
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This is Part II of a two-part series, “A Mysterious Alchemy: The Secret Life of Grill Master,” which looks at the life of Joseph J. Lewis from his Mississippi childhood to working as a chemist at global pharmaceuticals.