Toward the western end of the Texas A&M campus in College Station, a modern building with clean lines—and clean rooms—houses the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM). In 2008, NCTM received funding from the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to build a vaccine-manufacturing workforce. Now, leaders at NCTM see even more ways to change the industry.
Jenny Ligon, NCTM assistant director, described NCTM’s job as “technical training for the biomanufacturing industry, professional development and continuing education, and STEM high school programs. “We want to ensure we’re keeping that pipeline full for future generations of biopharmaceutical manufacturers.”
Today, NCTM offers 15 off-the-shelf courses: five are online, seven are professional development, and three are week-long hands-on training in upstream, downstream, or quality systems. Originally, NCTM leaders believed that a great facility, advanced equipment, and good teachers would bring people, but it didn’t bring enough. As Ligon explained, “Companies had to come here to us, spend days-to-weeks with us, pay for the travel, pay for the lodging, meals—all of that.” So, NCTM offers an easier option.
Now, NCTM also delivers its Train-the-Trainer programs and licenses its curriculum.
For example, Cytovance Biologics, in Oklahoma City, wanted a consistent and company-wide training product that would also reduce the time it takes to onboard new and under-experienced employees. NCTM proposed a Train-the-Trainer program wherein Cytovance licenses and delivers curricula to their own staff. “Because of their geographical distance, it’s not conducive for them to come and train in our facility,” Ligon said. “So, we brought the training to them.”
After training more than 85 people at Cytovance, the benefits really emerge. “Cytovance has a mandatory 30-day new hire probationary on-the-job training and shadowing onboarding process,” said Ligon. “They’ve been able to narrow that down to a week with our curriculum.”
In this fast-moving area, though, it takes work to stay on top. “We are transferring a gene and cell therapy course from one of our collaborators because it is a rapidly-growing sector,” noted Zivko Nikolov, PhD, NCTM director. “There’s a huge need, and we must guarantee that our staff and facility can handle every next new technology.”
By licensing its curriculum, NCTM is changing the biotherapeutic training industry and loving it. “We’re really passionate about teaching,” Nikolov said. “We like to teach.”