Industry leaders share their views on the growth of biopharmaceuticals and how important the Center for Biopharmaceutical Education and Training will be in powering the careers of students and the future workforce needs of biotech companies.
Jay Marshall ‘87
Executive Director, Quality Head, International and Distribution Quality, Amgen
I have stayed connected with the college because I like working with students and interns. I served on the president’s advisory board, and it was the uniqueness of CBET that got my attention.
The core of the education is strong and pretty similar across many of the programs offered at ACPHS. What this new center does is take that core further and create additional career paths for students. I think it’s a great opportunity for students who want to go into industry.
I have hired close to 500 people in my career. We typically hire people with either a generic science background, like biology, microbiology or chemistry, or it’s some kind of engineering background. And when you bring these people in, there is a fairly significant amount of training that needs to happen to get them into the specifics of the biotech field. Having students from CBET come to us with some specific experience, I think would be attractive to any company, because it could be a way to shorten the training timeline.
One thing made clear in the last few months with the pandemic and the urgent need to find new medicines and new vaccines is that we can’t take five years to bring products to market. Speed to market is so important. I think CBET will provide a great opportunity for industry by allowing us to dramatically reduce the amount of training required to bring people in and have them be productive quicker.
Across the industry, we have a lot of products in the pipeline, not all make it over the finish line, but there are lot of exciting molecules out there and there is a lot of work that needs to happen to move those along. I think it would be an obvious opportunity for students from CBET to work areas of product development, quality, both quality assurance and the testing of quality control, and of course manufacturing.
Nancy Barbour ‘86, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Product Development at Bristol-Myers Squibb
It’s very competitive for hiring out there. It’s an employee’s market, particularly in the biotech hubs across the country, the war for talent is vicious. We are continually hiring, training and working hard to retain good people. There is a shortage of well-trained talent. So, when you find good talent, you work hard to keep them because they become very attractive to the company down the street which is also looking to hire.
There is no other program anywhere in the education system that gives you some of the fundamental physical sciences that is also aligned with understanding of pharmacology and therapeutics. That’s only found in the pharmacy programs. So that’s the opportunity with CBET, to give students who are getting that broad-based education hands-on experiences and a view of the interdisciplinary components involved in biologics development.
When I think about the students coming out of CBET, I think they will build a set of fundamental skills that is pertinent in today’s industry yet adaptable to meet the needs of future novel therapeutic technologies. Skills such as learning how to work in the laboratory environment, learning how to handle proteins, knowing the criticality of sterility in these environments, these are extendable skills that can be applied in different ways.
I see these students fitting very neatly into development laboratories, where a lot of the focus is on product design, process design, scale-up, methods development and testing. We do everything from plasmid design, cell-line development, through upstream and downstream methods, in-process testing, PAT systems, automation systems, as well as parenteral product design and fill-finish.
A large proportion of the students I see have backgrounds in engineering, chemistry, or biological sciences. So, what CBET will offer is a very different track, much more interdisciplinary, that will produce students who have an appreciation for the patient component of pharmaceutical science and can have a different type of impact in this industry.
Steven Hansel ‘85 Ph.D.
Executive Director, NBE-Pharmacokinetics, Boehringer Ingelheim
This new center makes a lot of sense. I am a big fan of providing practical, useable skills for students in areas where demand is strong. Biologics continues to be a growth area for big pharma companies. Ten years ago, biologics in big pharma were still the newcomers, now they are taking over the portfolios because of their therapeutic potential, and because now a lot of the science and technology is understood well enough to be able to tackle additional diseases.
I am a hiring manager, and I am in perpetual hiring mode. Finding the right talent continues to be a challenge, and then recruiting that talent is also a challenge because most people with specific science-based skills have opportunities to go to multiple companies.
No one is expected to join a biotech or pharmaceutical company with all the answers and understand everything, but I have no doubt that someone coming from CBET, with some foundational skills, training and a basic understanding of the complexities of the processes involved is going to have plenty of opportunities.
Everything we do in research is underpinned by data. And the scientists who run all the experiments and make the tool molecules we need do not have to be PhDs. We need lab based scientists, and computational based scientists, to help move projects forward. People with microbiology, molecular biology, bioanalytical skills, are the ones making the tools that help us understand whether a drug target makes sense in a certain disease area, and they are the ones who would manufacture, on a research scale, the potential drug candidates. Then, once we decide to go into the clinic for human testing, those candidates need to be scaled up, and that is where more of the production mindset comes into thinking.
The experience students gain at CBET can open a door to the industry. And once they are working there, they will realize how complex and multidisciplinary the world of pharmaceuticals is, and given the diverse range of opportunities available, they can find what they are passionate about and advance the trajectory of their own careers accordingly.
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