The number of Southeastern Pennsylvania companies that develop and manufacture gene therapies and cell therapies has increased. As a result, a regional need exists for highly skilled technicians in these fields, especially in the commercial manufacturing area. This project aims to address this need by increasing the number of graduates from local community colleges who enter this advanced therapy field. Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) is the lead institution in the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative. It has an extensive track record in developing and disseminating curriculum for biopharmaceutical bioprocessing technician education. In this project, MCCC will work with local industry partners to determine skills and competencies needed in the advanced therapy technical workforce, develop curriculum in cell and gene therapy manufacturing, and facilitate adoption of the curriculum at local two-year colleges. The new curriculum will provide students with a strong foundation in the skills and knowledge for developing, manufacturing, and testing these advanced therapies, as well as hands-on experience with industry-relevant bioprocessing equipment.
The project will assess the competencies, skills, and curriculum needs of local biotechnology programs at two-year institutions, provide mentorship for enhancing or building new courses where needed, provide educators with professional development relevant to the new curriculum, and connect them to local industry. Students from communities that are underrepresented in the biomanufacturing sector, including students of color and/or first-generation college students, will have increased access to successful bioprocessing careers, as the project builds a pipeline from high school to community college to the advanced therapy workforce. Project aims include: (1) improving student education and training by developing and disseminating a local industry-endorsed advanced therapy curriculum; (2) promoting and facilitating adoption of new curriculum at local community colleges through mentorship, industry engagement, and professional development; and (3) increasing awareness of the biomedical/bioprocessing career path among high school students, with emphasis on inclusion of underrepresented populations. The project will build upon the work of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative and its current open-source curriculum modules on biologic bioprocessing, adding new industry-guided curriculum based on required skills and knowledge for the advanced manufacturing workforce for the cell and gene therapy industry. Developing this skilled workforce is key for the Greater Philadelphia region to become an advanced therapy manufacturing hub, a possibility with significant positive economic impacts. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.