In this roundtable discussion, participants look at the developing bioeconomy and at the education and training needed to generate a skilled local workforce.

The following is part of a roundtable discussion on training technicians for the biomanufacturing workforce. The panelists are:

  • Michelle Coleman, chemical technician and algae photobioreactor operator at Huntsman Advanced Technology Center.
  • Mike Fino, director of the biotechnology program at MiraCosta College.
  • Daniel Kainer, Ph.D., director of the Biotechnology Institute at Lone Star College-Montgomery.
  • Kelly King, vp of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies.
  • Adelheid (Heidi) Kuehnle, Ph.D., president, CEO, and co-Founder of Kuehnle AgroSystems.
  • Ikenna Nedosa, operations manager at Promethean Biofuels.

The moderator is Sonia Wallman, Ph.D., principal investigator and executive director at NBC2 Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative.

SONIA WALLMAN: Welcome and thank you to all of our panelists who are participating in this roundtable discussion to share their experience and expertise. I am joined by executives from two industrial biotechnology companies, two educators who head biotechnology training programs at community colleges in California and Texas, and two technicians working in the biomanufacturing industry. We are going to look at the developing bioeconomy and at the education and training needed to prepare technicians to support it and generate a skilled local workforce.

The community college response to the need for skilled workers has paralleled the development of industrial biotechnology, dating back to the mid-1980s and the first programs devoted to biopharmaceutical manufacturing at Contra Costa in northern California and at Alamance Community College near Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The early 1990s brought the development of biotechnology skill standards and a flurry of new biotechnology training programs. In the early 2000s, the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2) led the development of biomanufacturing skill standards, and many more biotechnology programs with a biomanufacturing component were established, particularly in the Northeast.

In 2005, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative was established with a web presence at The NBC2 has created harmonized global biopharmaceutical biomanufacturing skill standards and developed laboratory manuals and virtual biomanufacturing modules that utilize the tools, processes, and regulatory structure of the biomanufacturing industry, and an industry-authored textbook, Introduction to Biomanufacturing. This past May, NBC2, with support from the NSF-ATE program, and recognizing the crossover from biopharmaceuticals to biofuels and industrial biotechnology, held a Biofuels Workforce Summit at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, HI to begin to define the skill set necessary to support biofuels discovery research, development, production, and analysis. Later this year, the NBC2 will produce a Biofuels Production and Analysis textbook and laboratory manuals co-authored by partners from industry and academia.

As our panelists will attest to and describe from their own individual experiences, the effort to develop and implement biomanufacturing training programs, to identify the skill sets needed for success in the emerging biofuels and biobased products industries, and to provide students with the appropriate classroom, laboratory, and internship experience and opportunities has greatly benefited from, and in many cases been made possible through collaboration and support from industry partners. In fact, if it were not for Lonza Biopharmaceuticals, a contract biomanufacturer located next door to Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, NH, we would not be having this discussion today. That was the first company I interacted with in the early 1990s to develop a training program for them, and that effort led to the formation of the NBC2 network and the development of the training curriculum.

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Industrial Biotechnology, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a peer-reviewed bimonthly research journal focused on biobased industrial and environmental products and processes. The above article was first published in the October 2013 issue of Industrial Biotechnology with the title “Training Technicians to Support the Bioeconomy: Defining the Need; Designing and Implementing Innovative Solutions”. The views expressed here are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of Industrial Biotechnology journal, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, or their affiliates. No endorsement of any entity or technology is implied.

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