Greater Philadelphia is one of the nation’s Top Ten biopharma clusters, according to an annual survey conducted by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. It’s not a surprise that colleges and universities nationwide send their faculty to the region to learn the latest trends and techniques. Many of those faculty are coming to Montgomery County Community College.
MCCC has one of only a handful of biomanufacturing programs in the Philadelphia region, which makes it a regional leader in the field. From July 11 to 13, more than a dozen faculty from colleges as far as California and Texas came to MCCC to learn about monoclonal antibody production, which is important in the treatment of cancer. The faculty were here as part of a National Science Foundation funded program run by the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (NBC2) which is based at MCCC.
During the three-day Mini-BIOMAN workshop, faculty gained in-depth knowledge of cutting-edge biomanufacturing technologies through hands-on laboratory activities and lectures. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants had a comprehensive, ready-to-insert curriculum module on the topics and activities covered to utilize in their own classrooms.
“The curriculum was developed at MCCC, and at the end of a very intensive three-day workshop, participants are prepared to take what they have learned and insert it into their course or program," said Dr. Maggie Bryans, associate professor of biotechnology at MCCC and principal investigator for NBC2. “The topic is very relevant to what is going on in biopharmaceutical companies in the region and across the country and teaching this material to our students will give them an edge when it comes to gaining employment in the industry."
NBC2 is currently funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and serves as an Advanced Technological Education Regional center. The grant is now in its fourth phase, and the College has received a total of $7.89 million over the years for the program. Five other community colleges are involved in the collaborative including nearby Bucks, who joined the MCCC staff to co-teach the workshop. The mission of the Collaborative is to coordinate regional efforts into a national biomanufacturing education and training system to promote, create and sustain a qualified workforce for the industry.
Faculty who complete the program are able to access curricular materials such as textbooks, manuals and other educational resources available for free on the NBC2 website.
In addition to the Mini-BIOMAN workshops NBC2 hosts for two- and four-year college faculty nationwide, it hosts BIOMAN Academies for high schools students, such as the one held at MCCC in June, and Protein is Cash workshops for high school teachers.
“For faculty, teachers and students, we want to introduce them to the vast opportunities available in the growing field of biomanufacturing, give them the opportunity to learn from industry leaders and on industry-grade equipment, and provide them with the skills and desire to continue that teaching and learning process,” said Dr. Matt Marshall, NBC2 grant program manager at MCCC.
Montgomery County Community College offers a 64-credit Associate in Applied Science degree in Biotechnology, as well as a 16-credit Certificate of Completion in Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing. The latter is designed to provide hands-on, industry-relevant training to students who already hold associate’s or bachelor’s degrees and who wish to obtain the skills required to enter a careers in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical field.