Posts Tagged ‘biomanufacturing’

A Wealth of Educational Opportunities in Biotech

Friday, September 16th, 2011


Nearly 25 years ago, the Biotechnology Project at Madison Area Technical College was one of the first Biotech programs to be created at a community college. “We’ve been around since 1987, so we actually have a fairly long history,” notes program instructor Lisa Seidman. “This program was started when Biotechnology was a very, very small industry, really at the beginning of the Biotechnology revolution. So we’ve been a part of it since the very beginning.”

Since then, the field of Biotechnology has exploded, as groundbreaking scientific discoveries and technological developments have emerged with unprecedented speed. And, Biotech training and education programs have kept pace. Today, more than 50 community colleges and technical schools around the United States offer degrees and certificates in various aspects of the Biotech industry according to Bio-Link, a national consortium and clearinghouse for technician education.

This week’s ATETV Episode sat in on a number of Biotech classes; we decided to continue the exploration and take a look at some of the degree and certificate programs available in the field of Biotech.

Biotechnology Associate Degrees prepare students to work in such areas as Biotechnology research and development. Emphasizing “hands-on” learning, these two-year programs help familiarize students with cutting-edge scientific techniques, technologies and equipment. Among other subjects, students typically gain a working knowledge of molecular biology, recombinant DNA, immunology, protein purification and tissue cultures, through both classroom lectures and laboratory learning experiences. Foundational courses in English, as well as a variety of math and science disciplines (i.e. algebra, statistics, chemistry, biology, microbiology and computer science) are also often part of the program.

There are two types of Associate Degrees. The first is the Associate of Applied Science degree (A.A.A.S. or A.A.S.) a professional technical degree designed to prepare students to directly enter the workforce. The second are Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees. These also prepare students for jobs, but focus more on course work that can be transferred to four-year institutions.

Check out Bio-Link, for a full list of the more than 50 schools around the country that offer Associate’s Degrees in Biotechnology.

Today, many community colleges have also developed Certificate Programs focusing on specialized aspects of Biotech. Certificate programs generally require fewer credits than Associate Degrees. At Madison Area Technical College, for example, a Bioinformatics Certificate delves into the specifics of Bioinformatics, the application of Information Technology to the management and analysis of biological data. This program helps students develop the expertise needed for employment as Bioinformatics programmers and Genomics technicians — both growing fields — and is designed for students who have already had some college experience in the life sciences. The program includes introductory courses in Bioinformatics and Genomics as well as programming; website development; relational database coding; and networking operations, among others.

Another specialized area of certification is Biomanufacturing/Bioprocessing. These programs prepare students for entry-level positions in Biomanufacturing facilities, where living cells or their components – bacteria or enzymes, for example – are used to manufacture products, such as biofuels and therapeutics. One example is the Bioprocess Technology Program at MiraCosta College, which according to a recent profile in Science Careers, offers courses that focus on laboratory skills, Bioprocess technology and the production and analysis of biofuels.

Another specialized Certificate Program related to the Biotech field is Clinical Research Professional (CRP) certification. CRPs perform human research studies on the effects of new drugs and medical devices to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new therapies for the treatment of human disease. CRPs work in both biotech and pharmaceutical companies, as well as medical research labs, government labs and contract research organizations.

Students in CRP Certificate Programs like the one at Oklahoma City Community College learn clinical research site procedures, governmental and local regulatory affairs methods, experimental design and statistics, and technical reading and writing skills focusing on clinical research applications, as well as Bioethics.

Heading in a different direction, specialized Biotech Certificates are also available for Environmental Laboratory Technologists. At Georgia’s Gwinnett Technical College, for example, the program, which is two quarters long, prepares students to work in laboratories associated with environmental management, notably drinking water purification, waste water management and pollution remediation facilities. Specific courses include Regulatory Compliance, Environmental Testing Methodology, Environmental Pollution and Remediation and Water and Wastewater Laboratory Methods.

You may not have considered that medical devices are also a key component of the Biotech Industry. Products that are used to diagnose medical conditions, aid in surgical procedures or used as part of a therapy, medical devices include everything from artificial hearts to genetic tests, to X-ray machines, blood-sugar meters and tongue depressors.

A Medical Devices Certificate, such as one offered by Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington (Indiana) familiarizes students with the regulatory principles that are used in medical-device manufacturing, and in addition to a Biotechnology curriculum, includes courses in Medical Terminology, Quality Systems in Manufacturing and Medical Device Design and CAD Fundamentals.

Bio-Link can provide you with still more information about Biotech certificate programs, such as those focusing on Quality Control at Bergen Community College, and Associate’s Degree programs like the Regulatory Affairs Associate’s Degree offered at Ivy Tech.

ATETV Episode 40: A Closer Look at 3D Design, Data Storage and Drug Development

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

This week, we focus on three of today’s fast-growing industries – Rapid Manufacturing, Information Technology and Biomanufacturing.

In our first segment, we visit Saddleback College where students in the Rapid Manufacturing program are turning their two-dimensional ideas into intricate 3D product prototypes.

“The equipment you see in the school’s laboratory is the same equipment used by industry,” says Saddleback’s Ed Tackett. And it’s the program’s hands-on approach to education and training that has proven critical to its success.

“We let [students] make mistakes,” adds Ken Patton. “That way they learn and they don’t forget.” That’s especially important to today’s employers, as companies work to bring their high-end manufacturing design and tooling back from overseas.

“We’ve had offers from companies to hire our entire class sight unseen because of our approach to teaching technicians how to work in an industrial environment,” says Ken. “Part of the fun and excitement we have is the ‘wow’ factor every time we walk into the lab.”

Information Technology is another industry where jobs are growing rapidly – even exponentially — as we learn in our second segment.

“Anybody who needs to keep data – which is just about everybody nowadays – are our customers,” explains Todd Matthews of EMC Corporation, one of the world’s largest data storage companies. So whether it’s banking records, medical information or online photos and e-mail accounts, or any of the myriad data we use each day, it all has to be stored – and stored securely.

And, says Todd, this is only the beginning. “More digital data will be created in the next two years than was produced in the last 10. Wouldn’t you want to be working in that type of industry? It’s growing exponentially.” Wow, that’s an impressive statistic.

Finally, the week’s third segment explores pharmaceutical development, another fast-growing industry. And, as Great Bay Community College student Matthew Dobben explains, the process required to bring a new drug to market begins with Biomanufacturing, a specialized type of manufacturing technology used to produce biological agents.

“In this lab, we produce the proteins that are used by the pharmaceuticals to create drugs,” says Matthew, who is enrolled in Great Bay’s Biomanufacturing Technology program. “[And this other] area involves recombinant DNA technology, while next door we research and use a process known as chromatography, which is purification.”

The highly technical skill sets needed to produce these biological materials require careful organization and attention to detail. But, as Matthew notes, it all begins with a love of science. “You need to know what you’re talking about [when] you’re considering millions of dollars worth of [new] drugs.” Wow – that’s a great challenge and tremendous responsibility.

Vaccines Are Safeguarding America’s Health

Friday, April 2nd, 2010
Image provided by CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Image provided by CDC/ Judy Schmidt

The chances are very good that you’ve never had diphtheria. And that you’ve never known anyone who had diphtheria. You may not even be familiar with the word “diphtheria.”

But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this bacterial disease was responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than cancer, striking hundreds of thousands of people. Contrast that with today’s statistics: In the 1990s, an average of only three diphtheria cases were reported each year.

The almost complete eradication of diphtheria is just one of the major success stories of preventive vaccines. And, today, like whooping cough (pertussis), measles, mumps and German measles (rubella), the diphtheria vaccine is part of children’s routine immunizations.

It’s always better and more cost effective to prevent a disease than to treat it once it’s already developed, which is one reason why vaccines continue to be a key ingredient in our overall health care plan — just think about last year’s urgency to develop a vaccine against the H1N1 virus. And as the Washington Post reported late last year, the U.S. government continues to focus on identifying new ways to get vaccines developed and into the marketplace — quickly.

So, how are vaccines created?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once scientists have identified the microorganism (such as bacteria or virus) or toxin that is causing an illness, they embark on a number of different strategies to develop a vaccine. But no matter which specific strategy they wind up using, all approaches to vaccine development focus on the immune system, the body’s natural defense mechanism against foreign invaders.

Vaccines provoke the body’s immune system into responding to an invader, thereby creating an “immune system memory.” That way, the next time the body encounters the bacteria or toxin, it “remembers” it and is prepared to do battle with the intruder. Here’s how it works: A weakened form of the disease germ is injected into the body. The body makes antibodies to fight the “invading germs.” Then, if and when the actual disease ever attacks, the antibodies are still in place to launch their battle and keep the individual from getting sick.

Today, scientists are working to develop vaccines for a wide range of diseases — besides tackling new strains of influenza, laboratories are working hard to develop vaccines that would guard against the HIV virus, tuberculosis and even cancer. Advances in genetics and a host of new technologies are providing researchers with new and improved strategies, and steps are being taken to develop vaccines to help guard against the threat of bioterrorist attacks.

And perhaps one day, vaccines will make all of these diseases as unfamilar as “diphtheria.”

ATETV Episode 28: Careers That Give Back

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

This week, we look at two innovative technical programs that are preparing students to make important contributions — to the health of their communities and to the health of the population.

In our first segment, we meet D-Jay Laffoon, a student at Cape Cod Community College’s environmental sciences program. D-Jay is currently enrolled in the program’s instrumentation class, which is keeping him outside collecting water samples for analysis.

“I think environmental technology is definitely a career with a future,” says D-Jay. “A lot of people are trying to be less fossil-fuel reliant, and I think renewable energy is the only way to go forward.” The college’s supportive environment, which includes free tutoring in math and other challenging subjects, is providing D-Jay with the confidence that he will come away from the program with a great future.

“In five years, I see myself in a nice [reliable] career instead of jumping from job to job. It’s a good experience and I’m having a real good time.”

In our second segment, students enrolled in the biomanufacturing program at Great Bay Community College are similarly excited — and appreciated. Through apprenticeships, also known as paid internships, at biopharmaceutical companies, these students are gaining the experience and confidence that comes with mastering complex scientific skills that will help lead to the development of life-saving drugs and medical products.

“Biotechnology is maturing all over the nation, as well as the globe, and that’s where lots of technician jobs are now being created,” explains Sonia Wallman, PhD, of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative. “The bioeconomy means that you’re able to use [genetically modified] cells to act as factories for your product.” The students at Great Bay are learning the scientific underpinnings that will turn proteins into marketable drugs. “They are learning to do the jobs that are found in a biomanufacturing facility, particularly in production and quality control,” adds Dr. Wallman.

The cutting-edge nature of the industry, coupled with the college’s apprenticeship program, is particularly energizing and inspiring. “[Our students] feel very powerful,” says Dr. Wallman. “They are doing stuff that no one else their age is able to do and it makes them feel really just like sports heroes. They’re appreciated for their knowledge.”

Rewarding careers in interesting fields are the end result of these and other ATE programs — there’s plenty of reasons for students to feel good about their futures.

ATETV Episode 19: On the Cutting Edge

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

When people think high-tech, they often think of laser beams and white lab coats. Well, we have both of those represented this week, but we start somewhere unexpected: out on the farm.

Joe Tarrence, a second-year student at Kirkwood Community College, is studying how to use GPS to help farmers increase their yields. Joe’s already out in the workforce, selling equipment to farmers and advising them on how to use it. “The sky’s the limit with this precision farming,” he says.

Next we meet Jazmine Murphy, a student in the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College. CCCC has made a concerted effort to recruit students, particularly young women with an interest in science and engineering. And with applications ranging from telephone lines to the military, Jazmine’s experience with lasers should serve her well after graduation.

Finally, we learn about biomanufacturing, which is the use of living organisms or parts of them to produce drugs like vaccines or insulin. It’s “using cells that you genetically modify to act as factories for your biomanufactured product,” explains Sonia Wallerman of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative.

Whether they involve lasers, living cells or tractors, ATE programs are helping students stay on the cutting-edge of technology. And that will help them find jobs in these high-tech industries coming out of school.