Innovation and Leadership in Unusual Times: Learning from History


We are all facing the most unusual time and trying to figure out how to vaccinate billions of people. There are many smart people coming up with new ideas to lead this effort. With innovation and leadership, I am sure that we will succeed.

Let us go back to the winter of 1925 in Nome, a remote Alaskan territory about 160 miles from the Arctic Circle. Nome had, at the time, 1,400 residents and one doctor. This doctor examines a boy complaining of labored breathing. He suspects tonsillitis, Until the boy dies the next day. By which point other patients are starting to line up, describing similar symptoms.The doctor changes his diagnosis to diphtheria. The highly contagious bacterial infection had an expected mortality rate of 100% among Alaskan natives.

The situation called for innovation and leadership. Here we go.

How to Get a Solution to Remote Alaska

The good news? A diphtheria antitoxin serum can be supplied from Anchorage. The bad? Anchorage is over 1000 miles away. Worse still, reaching Nome is nearly impossible in the dead of winter. The harbor is fully iced; airplanes are just developing and most have open cockpits; and the Alaska railroad reaches nowhere near Nome.  

The territory’s governor, Scott Bone, and the Board of Health take the lead to hatch an innovative plan. The serum will travel by train from Anchorage to Nenana. From there, a coordinated, around-the-clock relay team of the heartiest dogs and men in Alaska will brave the cold and transport the antitoxin via sled, across tundra, frozen lakes, and dense forests. 

Now known as the Nome Serum Run of 1925, or the Great Race of Mercy, this effort marked one of the towering rescues in American history. The feat of interspecies heroism would captivate the country. Especially Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo, a gray and brown Siberian.  

Making Tough Decisions in Crisis

At the time, the fastest recorded trip from Nenana to Nome was nine days. It was hoped that relaying with multiple drivers would shave off a day or two. Initially, Seppala was slated to carry the serum for the final leg. But organizers reconsidered. They decided instead that he was the best musher for the most perilous stretch. Crossing the frozen Norton Sound, he would be responsible for covering 91 of the 674 miles. His route was almost twice the distance of anyone else.

For part of his relay leg, near an inlet of the Bering Sea, Seppala had a choice: He could go around Norton Sound or take a dangerous 42-mile shortcut across it. According to the book The Cruelest Miles, by Gay and Laney Salisbury, Seppala and Togo took the risk. As the Salisbury’s recount “In the dark, in 85-below temperatures with wind chill, Seppala could not see or hear the cracking ice, and was dependent on Togo.” Ultimately, they made it across to the stopping point on the north shore, an Inuit igloo, where Seppala fed his dogs, slept a few hours and, with temperatures at –30° and the storm still raging, finished his leg. His treacherous shortcut had saved at least a day.

The collective crew of mushers covered 674 miles in 127 hours and 30 minutes—five and a half days. This is all the more remarkable  considering the extreme conditions amid the coldest winter in decades. Thanks to the dedication of the mushers and their dogs, the serum was quickly distributed and administered. Innumerable lives were saved.

When it comes to innovation and leadership, tough choices are often necessary. We can look to this historical example to see how hard work coupled with leadership and innovation can save the day. Lives even. I'm confident what held true in 1925 will continue in 2021. 

So, think out-of-the-box and contact me if I can help with your individual objectives and unique challenges. Though, I'll warn you in advance, I'll be doing it without aid of any dogs.

Working from home

What I Learned from Working from Home      


Working from home

This is a difficult moment in the world; but now with vaccines on the way, hopefully things are looking up. Previously I shared my experiences cooking and innovation during the pandemic.  Six months later, we are still working from home. This time I thought I’d explore what I’ve learned while working from home during the global pandemic.

For one, digital fluency has increased. We have all learned how to host online virtual “lunch & learns.”  I have hosted many virtual L & Ls on solid-liquid filtration, process drying, and critical applications. Contact me if you are interested in an online program. I also recorded myself giving a presentation I had hoped to give live at AICHE in Fall 2020.

All this virtual meeting helped me learn how to focus the conversation. My skills have improved in asking critical questions leading to optimized decision-making. These conversations force everyone to focus on the task at hand, be clear about objectives, and dig deep to get the answers.

Finally, I have learned to read eyes. In the past, when speaking with clients you could see everyone’s body language. This could help determine the direction of the meeting. Now, with video calls you have to pay more attention to eyes: How are they gazing, where are they looking, are they blinking, etc. All this provides clues about the interaction’s success.   

Working from Home & The Day Ahead

Time management is also something that I’ve been improving on daily. Even though I’m not going into the office, I try to look at the week and block out meetings, real work, and daily exercising/yoga. I’ve started using the Pomodoro Technique. This time management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer (real or virtual) to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Knowing that I am only working on that item for a particular amount of time has improved my focus and increased my productivity.

I’ve also taken to finishing the day by wrapping up certain tasks, writing down the unfinished tasks, and filling in my work plan which keeps tracks of my hours and habits. This helps me create a boundary between work and my personal life since I’m no longer driving home and unwinding. Of course, my five minutes of yoga breathing/meditation at the work day’s end also helps.  

I’m sharing all of this in the hopes it might help you too as we continue to work remotely. Stay safe. I look forward to traveling and meeting with you again. Contact me if I can help with your individual objectives and unique challenges.

Winterization Process Options for Cannabinoids

winterization process options cannabinoids

As a member of the Board of Directors of Nectar Health Sciences, I have the opportunity to work with a team of experienced scientists and industry experts dedicated to commercializing a unique and patent-pending cannabinoid isolation technology. Nectar, is a privately-owned cannabinoid isolation and extraction company, with a technology that isolates cannabinoids to >99% purity. This blog, though, will focus on winterization process options for cannabinoids.

According to Lo Friesen's recent article, Methods and Advancements in Wax Fractionation from Cannabis Extract, there are more than 400 chemical compounds in the cannabis. While some of these compounds are targeted during extraction, others, such as waxes, are extracted alongside the targeted compounds. Plant waxes are composed of a variety of compounds, such as fatty acids, hydrocarbons, esters, lactones, and alcohols. Most plants, including cannabis, produce waxes that exist on the plant’s surface. The cannabis wax layer is easily soluble in many solvents used for cannabis extraction. While waxes prove to be useful to plants, they are often an undesirable by-product of extraction methods. Waxes dramatically impact the viscosity as well as the complex chemical profile of cannabis extract.

What does this have to do with Winterization Process Options for Cannabinoids?

The winterization process involves freezing of the solvent-extract solution to facilitate crystallization of the waxes. Here is where it gets more interesting. The question is: how do you remove, through filtration, the wax crystals? This filtration is happening at very low temperatures. Down to -60 degrees C, from the liquid solvent! As you know, this is my area of expertise.  

There are actually several alternatives for this “wax-removal” step. Some producers use a simple manual vacuum “clam-shell” filter. These would be constructed in stainless steel with a vacuum connection. After the filtration, the “clam-shell” is opened and the cake is shoveled out.  

“High-speed” centrifugation is another approach. This is a fully automatic operation. But, depending upon the type of wax, viscosity and particle sizes and shapes, blinding of the filter cloth is a risk.  

Finally, pressure candle filters, with or without the use of filter aids, provide a  solution that is both simple to operate and  forgiving if the waxes become amorphous leading to blinding. For more information, review the BHS website for hemp and cannabis production.  


Currently, hemp and cannabis producers are working towards optimizing operations for cost-effective manufacturing. There are many approaches to winterization of cannabinoids to consider. The strategy selected can impact yield and/or flavor. Ultimately, it will come down to the individual extraction needs and equipment of the company involved. And, of course, testing the alternatives to determine the most effective route for those unique winterization process needs.

Please visit my website at P&ID for further information for various options and process development. I've enjoyed becoming well versed in the cannabinoid and terpenes marketplace technologies from hemp processing to final product. I’m confident that I can help in this industry. But I'm also open to learning about new processing areas too!