Executive Director, California State University System Biotechnology Program (CSUPERB); Chair, United States Biotechnology Workforce Committee, Council of Biotechnology Centers/Biotechnology Industry Organization. From the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92181-1230. Tel.: 619-594-1203; Fax: 619-594-5291
Commentary: Industrial biotechnology education: A model of collaboration between industry and academia
Article first published online: 3 NOV 2006
Copyright © 2003 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 139–141, March 2003
How to Cite
Dahms, A. S. (2003), Commentary: Industrial biotechnology education: A model of collaboration between industry and academia. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ., 31: 139–141. doi: 10.1002/bmb.2003.494031020191
- Issue published online: 3 NOV 2006
- Article first published online: 3 NOV 2006
- Manuscript Received: 9 DEC 2002
The article that follows is the tenth in a series of articles on the nature of biotechnology and its related industries with regard to educational and training needs and trends. The series is designed both to facilitate the understanding of the industry by the academic educational and research training sector as well as to better define the consequent educational, discovery and applied research, and developmental research training needs of future employees. Biotechnology industry clusters around the world identify access to future employees and workforce development as the second or third most important item in a long list of hurdles facing their companies on their road to commercialization.
Some of the articles in this series focus upon important and novel academically based, industry-engaged, and industry-responsive biotechnology education and training programs that provide clonable examples and case studies for nascent training programs . In many cases these programs deserve close scrutiny and are worthy of immediate cloning, frequently without the necessity of entering into complicated surveys of the typically oversurveyed local biotechnology industry as to what topics need to be addressed and in what depth. Further, some of these future articles address the pre-baccalaureate situation, an area covered in previous articles in this series [2–4], a level of great importance to the industry as it moves to commercialization, manufacturing, and production.
The following article addresses the important biotechnological manufacturing and bioprocess engineering topics at the technician training level. It focuses upon the Moorpark College Industrial Biotechnology Program located in Moorpark, California, in the shadows of Amgen and the Baxter Healthcare Corporation. This community college-based bioprocess technician training program is exceptionally worthy of close attention from a variety of perspectives. It clearly is the best bioprocess technician training program in the United States. The content of its courses, its workforce and industry responsiveness, its articulation between institutions, and its extensive model for partnering between industry and academia all place it into a class of its own.
The Moorpark Program links industry, an aggressive and creative community college, and a new university in a novel partnership with sharing of faculty and facilities in a manner that serves as a model for other developing programs. Such programs are not created without great challenges. Importantly, a prescient community college administration with support at both the institutional Presidential and lead academic administrator levels is necessary. Resources are required to jump-start such programs and often are linked to the acquisition of a professionally well developed, respected, and entrepreneurial program director, as was the case with Moorpark.
Such programs cannot be created without substantial assistance from industry. Moorpark is fortunate in that it is in the locale of the largest biotechnology companies in the world. The commitments made by Baxter, and later Amgen, in creating and subsidizing the program are extraordinary but necessary for training programs of the complexity and technological depth of GMP11 -regulated, bioprocess-based manufacturing of biologics.
There are additional challenges in maintaining such programs that center around the capabilities and backgrounds of the trainees. Bioprocess technologies require a level of mathematics and exposure to the physical sciences that extend beyond the typical repertoire of most students in the average United States community college-based biotechnology training program. In fact the best student starting material for bioprocess technician training might be a student who has the typical biotechnology technician background but capabilities in statistics and aspects of physical biochemistry and physical chemistry. The bioprocess technician trainees, often in control of biologics with market values of $40,000/g, must have more than basic understanding regarding temperature effects on reactivity, reaction pressures, flow dynamics, control systems, large scale processing, plant design, etc. The Moorpark curriculum in fact is close to those seen in EU post-high school technical programs (the 3 of the 3, 5, 8 EU initiatives) as probably best manifested in several German Hochschule programs.
As addressed in the Moorpark curriculum, bioprocess technicians require greater than usual exposure to GMP requirements and aspects of validation, quality control, and regulatory matters than required by the typical biotechnology program trainee. Regardless of the biotechnological specialization, bioprocess or not, any requirement for student trainees with higher abilities and understanding in the mathematical and physical sciences can result in a large reduction in the pool of capable students found in a community college environment, largely because most students electing careers at this level are entering nirvana from the biological perspective with diminished or untested capabilities in mathematics and the physical sciences. Additionally, bioprocess technician training is not a scalable process and involves a throughput of perhaps 10–30 people per year in such a program. Such low throughput makes academic administrators very uneasy and often tests their perseverance in retaining such needed and expensive-to-operate programs.
An additional feature of the Moorpark Program is its unique partnership with the newest and 23rd campus of the California State University system, CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI). This campus was created in 1997 on the college-like, Mission architectural-style physical backbone of the previous California Camarillo State Hospital and Development Center. The onset of the Moorpark Program was co-linear with the creation of this newest university campus, allowing a very entrepreneurial and forward-looking partnership to develop between two institutions and industry, one led, however, by Moorpark. The industry-created and industry-funded training facilities, laboratories, process training suites, etc. are all located at CSUCI and are accessible for university educational and training activities as well.
As of 3 years ago, there were only two to three other programs that had a partial focus on bioprocess, and now the number has more than doubled. At the current time, other technician training programs that deal with bioprocess to varying extents are in development in the United States. These are summarized in Tables I and II. The reader is also referred to the bioprocess technician training aspects of last issue's Scottish perspective on biotechnology education and training (4).
The bottom line is that a number of elements must come together to produce a credible bioprocess technician training program. The keys to success are not only a prescient academic administration and an aggressive and informed program director but also a sufficient regional critical mass of the industry that is not only strategically committed to bioprocess but is in an economic position to move the program forward in terms of donated equipment, company senior management and staff time, and facilities. With only 40 or so of 1320 biotechnology companies (∼400 publicly traded) being profitable this year, the number of such well catalyzed bioprocess technician training programs in the United States is understandably small. Given the other concerns expressed above, the number of successful, long term, stable bioprocess technician training programs will likely be small and mostly localized in those areas of major biotechnology industry development. The reader is referred to the recent Brookings report  and other reports  detailing the major biotechnology industry clusters in the United States.
|Last name||First name||College||Address||City||State||Zip code||Telephone|
|Bladon||Mari Luci||Middlesex Community College||44 Middle St.||Lowell||MAfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Brigham||David||Indian Hills Community College||525 Grandview Ave.||Ottumwa||IAemail@example.com|
|DeKloe||Jim||Solano Community College||4000 Susin Valley Rd.||Susin||CA||94585||707-864-7000 (ext.351)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Harrigan||Maureen||Moorpark College||7075 Campus Rd.||Moorpark||CA||93021||805-378-1400 (ext. 1699)||email@example.com|
|Singer||David||San Diego City College||1313 Twelfth Ave.||San Diego||CAfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Wallman||Sonia||New Hampshire Community Technical College||320 Corporate Dr.||Portsmouth||NHemail@example.com|
|Woodruff||William||Alamance Community College||P.O. Box 8000||Graham||NCfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Last name||First name||College||Address||City||State||Zip code||Telephone|
|Adamo||Joe||Ocean County Community College||College Dr., P.O. Box 2001||Toms River||NJemail@example.com|
|Barber||Joan||Delaware Technical Community College||2108 The Highway||Arden||DEfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Baughman||Gail||Mira Costa Community College||One Barnard Dr.||Oceanside||CAemail@example.com|
|Fowler||Lynn||Clinton Community College||136 Clinton Point Dr.||Plattsburgh||NYfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Jones||Collins||Montgomery College||20200 Observation Dr.||Germantown||MDemail@example.com|
|Lahijani||Roya||Palomar Community College||1140 West Mission Rd.||San Marcos||CAfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Savage||John D.||Roxbury Community College||1234 Columbus Ave.||Boston||MAemail@example.com|
|Williams||Scott||Owensboro Community College||4800 New Hartford Rd.||Owensboro||KY||42303||270-686-4574||scotte.williams@KCTCS.edu|
|Williams||Phyllis||Sinclair Community College||444 West Third St.||Dayton||OHfirstname.lastname@example.org|
The abbreviations used are: GMP, Good Manufacturing Practice; EU, European Union; CSUCI, California State University, Channel Islands.
- 22002) Industry expectations for technician-level workers. The U. S. bioscience industry skill standards project and identification of skill sets for technicians in pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and clinical companies, Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 30, 260–264., (
- 5The Brookings Institution report: Signs of Life: The Growth of Biotechnology Centers in the U.S.: www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/es/urban/publications/biotech.pdf.
- 6California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology OECD Related Publication Links: www.csuchico.edu/csuperb/OECD_Articles.html.