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Operation Transformation at BioMarin

Andrea Christopher-Rea has become a household name as one of the leaders in this year’s Operation Transformation. She has had phenomenal success in shedding pounds and indeed stones over the last six weeks of the show as we’ve watched from the comfort of our sofas. But she has also had a nation cheerleading for her and her co-leader and husband Barry.

Their experience has captured the hearts of Cork watching the Ballinlough couple battle each week as they worked together for a common goal bringing us on their journey with a wonderful sense of humour and emotional rawness at times.

Andrea is a Senior Associate Scientist at BioMarin biopharmaceutical in Shanbally, Cork. She said that her success in the show has had to mean changes in her workplace too. ‘I spend a significant part of my week at my desk in BioMarin so the changes I made here were key to my success’.

BioMarin’s mission of developing rare disease medicines that will make a big impact on small patient populations is a shared purpose that has a deep effect on the workforce. Images of patients with rare diseases that benefit from the treatments that BioMarin develop adorn the walls at the site as a constant reminder of the real impact of their work. ‘BioMarin’s culture and values are strongly tied to the patients we serve, and this is so embedded in the way we work. This culture of inclusivity and the open way in which we work has benefitted me massively in this journey’. The 400-strong team at BioMarin has rallied behind Andrea with encouragement but also in making changes on the site to encourage others to make similar changes in their lives.

Mike O’Donnell, VP of Operations, BioMarin and Site Lead at Shanbally has been watching and supporting Andrea’s progress. But BioMarin already has a great reputation of health and wellness initiatives on site. ‘The BioMarin site in Shanbally has always promoted healthy eating and wellness. We have a super canteen in BioMarin that has an Irish Heart Foundation Gold Award for its healthy options.’ As you move around the site you get a sense that there is a real focus on fitness, with running, cycling, surfing clubs being advertised and storage for bikes outside the front door – and yes, they are being used! We recently opened a state-of-the-art Wellness Centre for strength and cardio training, with space for yoga, spinning and HIIT classes’

Mike speaks of Andrea’s undertaking with a real sense of pride in her achievement, ‘She’s incredibly brave and driven. It is a tough journey to undertake at the best of times but doing it while a nation watches on adds a whole other challenge. She is an inspiration.’ Andrea has in fact inspired many people onsite. The lunch time options in the packed canteen includes ‘Andrea’s weekly lunch’ which mirrors the Operation Transformation meal plan, and in the morning, employees can tuck into an ‘OT-Friendly’ breakfast.

The site support has really helped Andrea in getting to a place where she’s shed over two stone, ‘My work days can be long, which would have made things very difficult if I hadn’t the support of the canteen onsite. They have been amazing with preparing meals that I can eat which fit in with my plan. Not only that but there’s a real sense of camaraderie, I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone’. The final of Operation Transformation take place on RTE 1 at 9.30pm on 26th February. With three Cork-leaders this year, I’m sure the Munster viewership is showing a real spike this year!

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