PRESS RELEASE: World’s Largest Center for Educating Biotech Employees Opens in North Carolina

World’s Largest Center for Educating Biotech Employees Opens in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A state-of the-art training center formally opened at N.C. State University today, giving North Carolina a distinct advantage in the rapidly growing and globally competitive biotechnology industry.

The 82,500-square-foot Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training & Education Center (BTEC) is a globally unique facility with commercial-scale equipment to provide the specialized education and training needed to work in the biopharmaceutical industry. It provides hands-on training for both university and community college students as well as industry employees, and also supports research into new biomanufacturing technologies. The BTEC building, located on NCSU’s Centennial Campus, is shared by NCSU, the Community College BioNetwork and the BioNetwork Capstone Center. It will serve 2,000 students annually when fully operational.

The BTEC also collaborates with the Biotechnology Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) at N.C. Central University. BTEC, BRITE and BioNetwork are part of an educational partnership to meet the workforce needs of the state’s life sciences industry. This partnership, the North Carolina Biomanufacturing and Pharmaceutical Training Consortium, also includes the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, industry, and the N.C. Department of Commerce.

“This public-private collaboration for workforce development gives North Carolina a competitive advantage,” said Bill Bullock, director of bioscience industrial development for the Biotechnology Center and the Commerce Department. “The capacity to train a job-ready workforce is attracting major biomanufacturing plants to North Carolina such as Merck and Novartis and is helping existing plants in the state expand.”

At the BTEC facility, NCSU offers a new biomanufacturing sciences minor, a new degree program in bioprocessing sciences, and a new degree in biomanufacturing sciences within chemical and biomolecular engineering majors. The BioNetwork Capstone Center offers a range of industry-specific short courses for community college biotech students and incumbent workers. The BioNetwork Bus, a mobile laboratory staffed by a Capstone Center Instructor that offers biotechnology training at industry sites, also calls BTEC home when not on the road.

Currently 48,000 employees work in high-paying jobs at more than 400 North Carolina bioscience companies. The state is projected to lead the nation in percentage growth of new biopharmaceutical jobs through 2014, according to a study by the Milken Institute.

Golden LEAF, a non-profit foundation that invests in long-term economic development projects in the state, provided $70 million in startup funding for the consortium – its largest investment in a single enterprise.

“Today’s event represents another milestone in creating a comprehensive workforce development system that is responding to the employment and training needs of the emerging biomanufacturing and pharmaceutical industry sectors,” said Valeria Lee, president of Golden LEAF. “BTEC gives students, incumbent workers and people interested in employment in biomanufacturing relevant, hands-on training in a pilot-scale manufacturing facility. The training and research capabilities represented by this consortium provide a strategic advantage for North Carolina that is essential to growing jobs and life science businesses throughout the state.”

Industry has contributed an estimated $13 million of in-kind support such as equipment donations and employee time for facility design and engineering at BTEC. Most of the contributions have been provided or arranged by members of NCBIO’s Biotech Manufacturers Forum, including long-time Forum members Biogen Idec, Diosynth Biotechnology, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceutical Industries, Novozymes, Talecris Biotherapeutics and Wyeth Vaccines.

Designed to create the most well-trained, industry-focused professional workforce in the world, BTEC begins its pilot program this fall with seven courses and will increase to nearly a dozen in the spring. Every course but one has an associated advanced, hands-on laboratory in a current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) environment using facilities and equipment that match those in place at the world's leading biomanufacturing companies.

The Community College System launched BioNetwork in 2004 to bolster the six community colleges providing biotech education at the time. Now, more than 20 community colleges statewide are growing the workforce for this sector, with support from six specialized centers offering expertise in different aspects of biotechnology. Since BioNetwork’s inception, more than 4,700 students have received biotech training made possible either directly or indirectly by $17.9 million in BioNetwork funding. Collectively, these students have entered or re-entered the workforce earning an estimated average of $13,246 more per year.

The BRITE program at N.C. Central University will open a 52,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building in February 2008 for new undergraduate and graduate degree programs in pharmaceutical science. BRITE has recruited industry-experienced faculty to provide targeted preparation for student employment in pharmaceutical companies and to initiate research programs in drug discovery and new technology to support manufacturing. Currently, 57 bachelor’s students and 27 master’s students are committed to the program for fall 2007.

Together, the Consortium’s three programs create an integrated and flexible system that will support students, job-seekers and industry employees throughout their career paths.