In a global healthcare crisis, shipping treatments around the world is not always enough. Instead, therapeutics need to be manufactured closer to the point of use, but that requires both hard and soft infrastructure.
The soft infrastructure is a trained workforce, which is crucial to successfully manufacturing vaccines and therapeutics. To support and encourage bioprocessing in more countries, the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM), located at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station at College Station, started training international groups of engineers, scientists, and technicians through its Advanced Certificate in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing (ACBM) program.
Since August, three international groups—composed of participants from Nigeria, the Republic of South Africa, and Senegal—have completed the ACBM program, with funding from BARDA—the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As Jenny Ligon, associate director for NCTM, describes the ACBM program, it consists of “nearly 100 online and hands on training hours covering various aspects of cell culture and basic molecular biology, aseptic processes and microbiology, upstream and downstream processing of biological materials including viruses, monoclonal antibodies, and other recombinant proteins, as well as industrial bioanalytical methods.”
The international participants in the ACBM program came from various backgrounds. “Most of the participants were knowledgeable about some parts of the biomanufacturing process, but I’m not sure any of them had the complete picture,” says Logan Ardrey, a technologist at NCTM. “I think the variety of backgrounds—including industry, academia, and government—was advantageous for this training, since it gave participants a chance to learn how different companies performed each task, giving them a fresh perspective.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic spurred international interest in geographically dispersed bioprocessing, manufacturing treatments closer to their point of use will also play a key role in addressing future healthcare challenges and changes in the bioprocessing industry, such as increasing cold-chain challenges for therapeutics. As Ligon says, “Our team is proud to represent Texas A&M in addressing the critical need to develop a biomanufacturing workforce in other countries.”