Case Studies

Joseph Dittberner – Sutro Biopharma

Creating the facilities needed for healthcare excellence

Joseph Dittberner has been integral to Sutro Biopharma’s journey toward operational excellence for over eight years. His dedication and expertise have propelled him to his current role as the director of facilities, where he plays a vital role in shaping the company’s physical infrastructure.  

Sutro Biopharma is a South San Francisco-headquartered biotechnology company focusing on clinical-stage drug discovery, development and manufacturing. Founded in 2003, the publicly traded company has over 300 employees and is led by CEO William Newell.  

Joseph Dittberner

Joseph Dittberner / Director of Facilities / Sutro Biopharma

As a cornerstone of Sutro’s operations group, Dittberner leads a team entrusted with the meticulous management of every aspect of the company’s space in an area that several biotech and pharmaceutical companies call home. From ensuring the reliability of lab equipment to optimizing power utilities, Dittberner’s attention to detail and strategic oversight ensure that Sutro’s facilities operate seamlessly, enabling the company to focus on its core mission of transforming the landscape of biopharmaceuticals. 

“From optimizing our workspace for efficiency to implementing sustainable practices, my team and I are dedicated to supporting Sutro’s mission of advancing biopharmaceutical innovation. Together, we’re shaping the future of healthcare, one facility at a time,” Dittberner says. 

Shaping the future 

Among Dittberner and his team’s notable achievements is completing a comprehensive tenant improvement project that consolidated Sutro’s headquarters, previously scattered across two locations. This ambitious endeavor involved deconstructing old buildings and constructing a relatively new LEED silver-certified facility. Under Dittberner’s leadership, Sutro transitioned from outdated structures to a modern, sustainable four-story building spanning 100,000 square feet. 

Collaborating with partners like CAC architects and Landmark Builders Inc., Dittberner’s team transformed the vision of Sutro’s new headquarters into reality. This state-of-the-art facility, tailored to meet Sutro’s lab space needs for the future, is a testament to their dedication and innovation. Dittberner’s involvement in the design and construction process ensured that each department’s requirements were met, facilitating a seamless transition for Sutro’s staff. 

Embracing a patient-centric approach, Dittberner and his team focused on creating a conducive environment for Sutro’s mission to eradicate cancer. Through strategic planning and innovative design, they equipped the new facility with cutting-edge technologies and sustainable features, setting the stage for groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in oncology. 

As Sutro continues its journey toward commercialization and further advancements in oncology, Dittberner remains committed to driving efficiency and innovation across the company. With upcoming projects like upgrading RODI systems and modifying equipment to be water resource conscious, Dittberner’s strategic vision and leadership will continue to play a crucial role in Sutro’s success. 

Dittberner’s unwavering dedication to excellence and commitment to Sutro’s mission drives the company’s success. As Sutro embarks on its next chapter of growth and innovation, Dittberner’s leadership continues to shape a future where groundbreaking discoveries and transformative therapies become a reality. 

Balancing business needs 

Leveraging technologies like Zoom, Envoy, PlanGrid and DeskRadar and internally designed systems to capture data via mobile systems, Dittberner spearheads initiatives to enhance efficiency and collaboration across Sutro. With a focus on predictive maintenance and continuous improvement, he is paving the way for a future where Sutro remains at the forefront of biopharmaceutical innovation. 

Dittberner faces the challenge of balancing the diverse needs of the business, from research and development equipment to traditional office spaces. With a focus on maintaining a 3:1 staff-to-lab space ratio, Dittberner ensures that research and office environments are optimized for productivity and collaboration. He fosters a dynamic and adaptable work environment by leveraging technology like Zoom and creating flexible, multifunctional areas such as conference rooms within cafeterias, quiet rooms, and break rooms on each floor. 

The operations team has 25 members, with eight reporting directly to him. Dittberner acknowledges the challenges of recruiting and retaining top talent. Despite these challenges, he prioritizes hiring and nurturing the best talent to ensure the department’s success. 

“Despite setbacks, I view past experiences as opportunities for growth and self-reinvention, shaping me into the resilient leader I am today,” Dittberner says.  

From the Marines to management 

Dittberner’s journey into facilities management began with a desire to excel. After attending Foothill College High School, he enlisted in the Marines, where he discovered the power of teamwork and determination. 

Dittberner transitioned into the corporate world after completing his service, spending over 15 years at ALZA Corporation/Johnson and Johnson. Here, he honed his maintenance supervision and project management skills, laying the groundwork for his future career. 

In 2016, Dittberner joined Sutro Biopharma as a facilities manager, drawn by the opportunity to make a difference in a dynamic environment. Through his unwavering dedication and willingness to embrace challenges, he quickly ascended the ranks, assuming increasingly senior roles within the organization. 

By August 2022, Dittberner had risen to be director of facilities, overseeing all aspects of facility operations at Sutro. His leadership and strategic vision have driven the company’s success and ensured its facilities operate at the highest standards. 

Throughout his journey, Dittberner has remained committed to fostering teamwork and camaraderie, drawing inspiration from his experiences in the Marines. His passion for building successful teams and tackling new challenges continues to shape his career and drive him towards greater accomplishments. 

“During my 35-year career, all aspects of success come from finding and developing strong relationships, clear communications and the belief that all have that same idea as I do: work hard, accomplish the goal and go home to your loved ones at the end of the day,” Dittberner says. “It’s as simple as that.  I love my job and the opportunities that my company has offered me. I enjoy the struggles and the successes of achieving the difficult things.” 

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2024 Edition here.

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