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The biomanufacturing industry is in the midst of a serious shortage of skilled bioprocess engineers, limiting productivity and the field’s ability to innovate and expand. For the industry to grow and accommodate revolutionary new drug modalities, like CAR-T therapies, far greater emphasis needs to be placed on training and retaining skilled workers.
As executive director and head of the Jefferson Institute of Bioprocessing (JIB), Parviz Shamlou, Ph.D. is working to address this multi-faceted problem by developing training programs for a new cohort of personnel who are proficient in the latest biomanufacturing technology.
Parviz will be discussing additional details about the JIB and its partnership with the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) as part of the Bio-Processing Symposium on Wednesday, May 1, 2010 at 11:45 am. Below, he shares insights into the origins of the biomanufacturing workforce gap and the JIB’s key initiatives, as the first and only education and training institute for bioprocessing in North America.
Parviz: JIB has the infrastructure, resources and people to attract a new generation of young people to bioprocessing and biomanufacturing. We need to reach out to young people who are in STEM-based education to excite them about jobs and career opportunities in biomanufacturing. At Thomas Jefferson University we have a superb team dedicated to this goal. We're currently going to schools and community colleges, and inviting students for tours and internship opportunities at JIB. We're also creating programmatic partnerships with local community colleges, such as Bucks County Community College and Montgomery County Community College, to create a single pathway from high school to jobs. We give seminars and presentations at schools, community colleges and universities; any way of reaching out to people.
Why are we doing this? Because the jobs in bioprocessing and biomanufacturing are excellent, and the salaries are good. Career development and mobility is superb.
Parviz: By partnering with NIBRT, an exceptional bioprocessing training center in Ireland, we’ve been able to kickstart our facility much better and stronger. We have built a next-generation, ready-to-use facility, which will be the first of its kind in a university environment. The largest bioreactor we have at JIB is a 200-liter single-use bioreactor. Everything we do, all our programs are in partnership with industry; our programs are industry led; the learning outcome of our programs are industry defined. We are already, at JIB, and we have the capability to teach and train people with the latest technology that are actually used in biomanufacturing to make medicine for patients.
Parviz: The future of bioprocessing and biomanufacturing could not be more exciting or more challenging. We are moving from batch to continuous bioprocessing. This creates fantastic new opportunities for research partnerships and collaborations. Much of the research in this area in the past has focused on upstream operations, including, for example, perfusion bioreactors. Future research will also focus on continuous downstream bioprocessing to create a truly end-to-end continuous biomanufacturing platform. When you combine continuous bioprocessing with ready-to-use, flexible technologies you have the foundation for a totally new biomanufcaturing platform that can be used to commercialize radically new therapeutic modalities, from sophisticated next generations checkpoint inhibitors, bispecifics, fusion proteins and ADCs to CAR-T cell, gene therapy, advanced vaccines and regenerative medicine. That, I believe, is the future.
Let’s take CAR-T as an example of a radically new immunotherapy for certain blood related cancers. Currently, a patient goes to hospital, they take a small amount of blood and extract T-cells from it. Those T-cells are then shipped to a manufacturing facility. The cells are engineered so that they now are able to express certain additional new proteins, and those cells are then grown in a bioreactor, cleaned, processed, frozen, and shipped back to the hospital within about two weeks for infusion into the patient.
In terms of process development, scale-up (or in this case scale-out) of these processes, we are in infancy. What type of manufacturing platform would this type of autologous cell therapy require in the future? How do we develop allogenic based cell therapy processes that can treat millions of patients, more cost effectively? These are totally new types of therapies; they require new skills and hence new teaching and training, and at JIB we work and want to continue to work with our industry partners that are in that space.
I like to think that JIB will be involved in a great deal of industry sponsored partnership research, training and education to make all this happen, because that is the future.