Employee Spotlight: Frankie Manea

We know that creating a more sustainable world will take all of us. And everyone on the Perfect Day team plays a crucial part in helping us achieve this common goal. 

Frankie joined Perfect Day almost four years ago and is a Scientist III on the Bio-Analytics team in the R&D department. She embodies our mission by leading her team thoughtfully and sharing her passion with those around her. As Frankie’s manager puts it, “Soon after we started working together, I realized that Frankie is a ‘full package’ – a highly skilled and knowledgeable protein biochemist, but also a very compassionate person who deeply values people with whom she interacts and takes time to show how much she cares. Frankie’s love for science and her zest for life is infectious, the world is her oyster, and I feel very fortunate that she is sharing part of her journey with us at Perfect Day!” 

We sat down with Frankie to learn about her work on the Bio-Analytics team, her lab superpowers and more… 

What’s your position at Perfect Day?

I’m a Scientist III on the Bio-Analytics team in the R&D Department. I lead biochemistry efforts on the Bio-Ana team and I manage four wonderful scientists. I make sure everyone has enough work (but not too much) and make sure they have technical support as needed. We interact a lot with other teams, particularly Fermentation and DSP (downstream processing).   

What initially drew you to Perfect Day and what has changed since your time here?

I joined Perfect Day in October 2018 as the 52nd employee – it’s exciting to see how much we’ve grown at over 300 employees now. My PhD was in protein engineering in Sydney, Australia. I came to the states and was working in materials science/hybrid materials. It was all very much blue sky and any kind of tangible application was decades away. That’s one reason I wanted to go to the food biotech sector, because you can literally eat and taste the protein you worked on. Also, I just didn’t want to have to write grants all the time.

For me, getting to work with the people here is a really really big thing. I just really like my team, I really like analytics, I think the level of aptitude for the scientists is super high. We have so many smart people at this company. It’s cool to have these technical meetings where people are discussing data and it’s awesome to talk good science. I also enjoy the science itself on a fundamental level: I’m still able to look at protein structure and function and be able to relate that back to DSP or Strain, or how it’s going to affect food applications. I still like being able to explore and probe protein integrity.  

How did you get into working in Bio Analytics? 

My undergrad degree was biomedical sciences and I wanted to be an immunologist. I took a course called Protein Discovery and Analysis, and when the teacher started explaining what proteins are and what they can do, what they look like on a nanoscale, it was kind of a eureka moment for me of, holy crap, proteins pretty much just run life. Fun fact: if you were to remove all the water from a single cell, 80% of the dry weight is protein. All the machinery and any biological process you can think of is all protein based. They’re like these wonder molecules – I was really lucky that I took that course.  

What is Bio Analytics? 

The Bio-Analytics Team works to develop and execute robust, precise and accurate methods to generate useful, high-impact data for R&D and Operations Teams. To best support company goals, Bio-Analytics is divided into three sub teams; Analytical Chemistry (develops analytical techniques to gain high-resolution quantitative data), Biochemistry (develops biochemical and biophysical techniques to generate information on protein structure and function), and Lab Management (routinely runs established analytical pipelines, delivering data with an anticipated turnaround time while improving pipeline robustness and capability). 

What’s a routine lab activity that you always look forward to? 

I like running 96 well plate assays especially during the method development phase. For me, 96 well plates are powerful because of the breadth of conditions that can be screened. It feels like a puzzle to solve; finding the right solution parameters to gain useful data, figuring out the fastest and more reliable analysis. 

What’s your lab superpower? What do people in your lab know you for? 

I love working on protein purification using the fast performance liquid chromatography (FPLC) system. I think I’m known for my chromatography expertise and protein chemistry knowledge. 

What has been your favorite project so far? 

I enjoy working on collaborative projects. At the start of 2022, a team from Bio-Analytics comprising of a proteomics expert, analytical chemists and biochemists, characterized a new recombinant whey protein. It was challenging but fun to collect data across a range of techniques and create a cohesive story around the behavior and function of this protein. 

What’s your favorite food product made with Perfect Day protein? 

The Modern Kitchen Harissa cream cheese is so good! And I always have Brave Robot ice cream in my freezer for when visitors from overseas stay. My favorite flavor is Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk.

What is it about you that most folks don’t know? 

I started a vegetable garden last winter which I love – I spend a lot of time in my garden and really like growing my own food. There are a lot of other avid gardeners at Perfect Day, so it’s fun to compare notes with them. Enjoy hiking, rock climbing – I spent a lot of my time in my youth in Australia mountaineering. 

Canyoning is my other favorite thing to do: repelling down into a canyon, it can involve swimming, navigation-finding. It’s kind of a fringe sport without a lot of infrastructure – I like self-sufficiency. Everything you need you have on your back, you’re relying on your experience. I also play Australian Rules Football (AFL). It’s a game from Australia that is very different to rugby! The women’s team I’m part of in SF has won the National Championship 5 years in a row. 

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