Frank Mottola Goes Beyond the Bounds of Quality

Supernus’ Frank Mottola is proving that a company’s quality function should carry over into its facilities

As vice president of quality, GMP operations, and IT for Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Frank Mottola admits his diverse job title might seem a little unconventional on paper. But, if you keep in mind his nearly three decades of experience ensuring quality for organizations, it all starts to make sense.

“It’s definitely a very unique role. I don’t think you would go to most companies and find someone with my title,” Mottola says. “I think it all comes down to the fact that, in my roles, I’m a seeker and an accomplisher. I’m extremely focused on getting things done—and not just getting them done but getting them done with the highest level of quality. That focus has been the foundation of myself and my career.”

Frank Mottola, Vice President of Quality, GMP Operations, and IT Supernus Pharmaceuticals Portrait by Jim Gorski

After studying biology at Rutgers University, Mottola began his career in Johnson & Johnson’s packaging department, progressing into a formulator role then eventually ending up in Quality. Later, he went on to join Able Laboratories, eventually securing a leading role in that company’s quality assurance function. “Shortly after coming to that role, I discovered that some test results didn’t quite look right. We were able to do a full investigation, and—to make a long story short—our team was able to find evidence of fraudulent activity that traced back many years before me, which we then reported to the FDA,” he says.

Largely due to his efforts at the now-defunct pharmaceuticals company, Mottola was recruited by Supernus as associate director of quality assurance to help the company navigate its spin-off from Shire. He quickly ascended the ranks due to his talent for achieving successful and timely results. Along the way, he says, he’s made it his goal to imbue other departments in the company with his efficiency-minded, quality-centric philosophies.

“When I take over responsibility for a department, I tend to become a catalyst for change. I analyze the department from the inside out and try to understand it. I think about how we can make small changes to make the bigger impact,” he says. “Then, I develop a strategic plan based on where the department is at the time, keeping in mind how to ultimately make it better and how to meet needs that maybe aren’t being met. From there, we chart our course, constantly adjusting our objectives to tackle that ever-evolving strategic plan.”

In addition to revamping the company’s IT department, Mottola also played a major role in planning, developing, and designing the facilities for the company’s new, Rockville, Maryland-based headquarters, which will be completed in late 2019 or early 2020. “I had some experience designing quality procedures for a new facility in my previous position with Able Laboratories, but I certainly wasn’t the most experienced from a facilities perspective. I think I was given the opportunity because of my proven success in other departments and my diligence as far as execution, timelines, and deliverables,” he says. “And I’ve run my facilities projects just as critically and closely monitored as I would quality for a product.”

A perfect example, he says, comes from the early phases of designing the new headquarters. Upon meeting with brokers to design the floor plans, they requested a phone list to help guide their layout choices. “I ended up giving them a spreadsheet of everyone who will work there, what the future head count will be, where everyone sits, what their departments are, what their workflow diagrams are, and who they interact with on a daily basis. They just looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anything this thorough.’ Because of my quality background, that’s how I tend to think,” Mottola says.

In designing the new headquarters, Mottola, along with his team and Supernus’ leadership, have sought to make the space more conducive to teamwork. “We’ve evolved from a start-up company to a mid-level pharmaceutical company, and we’re trying to create a new environment to reflect that. We really want to bring a feeling of collaboration, and we want to bring our people out of their offices so they’re able to interact with each other, because, really, they’re like a family,” Mottola says.

The new facility will feature modern, communal areas as well as a large, shared eating space with a cafe-like atmosphere to encourage interaction among employees. “We want our teams to get involved and see their neighbors—not just nuke their food, make a cup of coffee, and return to a cave,” he says. “Based on that, we’ve designed a beautiful space with open-air ceilings, modern coffee bars, whiteboards, and informal gathering areas strategically placed throughout the floors to encourage conversation and ideas. There are also expanded offices so that meetings can take place there, instead of utilizing an entire conference room.”

Since the IT department also reports to Mottola, he’s also working to incorporate more technology into the spaces, such as interactive whiteboards and information panels about upcoming meeting and company events, while also removing wires from tabletops and eliminating anything that could impede a user-friendly process. The goal is to reduce complications and frustrations within the IT world and create a trouble-free environment.

Ultimately, he says, the new headquarters should be an environment in which Supernus’ employees are proud to work as well as one that’s comfortable and makes it easier to simply get things done. Mottola’s many years of service in quality functions have enabled him to achieve just that.

“I believe that quality, organization, and excellence are built-in from the beginning. They’re not things you bolt-on at the end,” he says. “I bring that sense to everything I do, and I’m assuring the quality of everything I take on. It all stems from there.”