Academia/Industry Collaboration Intensifies on Addressing the Pressing Needs in Biopharma Workforce Development

Academia and industry are collaborating more intensely on addressing the pressing needs in biopharma workforce development, in recognition of the challenges of keeping pace with the rapidly evolving process and product technologies and the cross-functional understanding and skills needed to support them.

During a session focused on the workforce challenges at ISPE’s annual biomanufacturing conference held virtually in June 2020, National Institute for Innovation in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing (NIIMBL) Workforce Director John Balchunas provided a compelling summary of the situation:

“In a nutshell, the biopharma industry is going to need an increasingly diverse supply of talent at all education levels in order to grow, expand, and meet the challenges introduced by emerging technologies and all these new therapeutic modalities. In order to do that,” he stressed, “we need broader partnerships – a lot more collaboration.”

In the six-part story below, IPQ explores the dimensions of these challenges and the industry/academia collaborations that are being formed and strengthened to address them.

Part I: NIIMBL’s Engagement with Academia on Workforce Development Needs

The story leads off with a review of the current biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce development landscape and the need for an increasingly diverse supply of talent from all education levels to address emerging technologies like gene therapies. In focus are the insights from Balchunas on the workforce challenges and how NIIMBL is working with its academic members to find and implement solutions.

Part II: ISPE Workforce of the Future Traction at UMBC and UC Davis

The focus of the second part is on the discussion that followed at the session on the industry/academia collaboration in which ISPE, under the direction of its Global Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Leadership Forum (GPMLF), is involved. Tony Moreira explained GPLMF’s motivations and objectives for the “Workforce of the Future” initiative with academia and how the initiative has been taking shape within his biomanufacturing program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Novartis’ Manfred Maeder then addressed the combination product course being given as part of the UMBC effort. Genentech’s Lindsey Silva followed with a discussion of the collaborative initiative developed for undergraduates at the University of California Davis (UC Davis).

Part III: Keck Institute’s Behrens on Biopharma Talent Needs and KGI/Industry Partnering

The third part focuses on a presentation by Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) professor Sue Behrens at the 2020 ISPE Facilities of the Future Conference in San Francisco. She provided additional insights on the talent pool projections and needs and how KGI and its Amgen Bioprocessing Center are exploring the industry/academia collaboration opportunities at the graduate level.

Part IV: Xavier’s Phillips on Sharable Quality and Regulatory Science Curriculum

In focus in Part IV is the “Quality Science Education” curriculum that has been developed by Pathway for Patient Health and a team of chief quality and operations officers across the pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer health industry. The curriculum is now available for undergraduate and graduate use internationally as a “micro-credential” on-demand or on-campus program. At the 2020 PharmaLink conference, Xavier’s Marla Phillips, who serves as Pathway CEO, explained the program’s development, objectives, and current status.

Part V: CASSS Panel on Opening Up Biopharma Career Pathways      

Reviewed in Part V is the engaging discussion that just took place in late February 2021 at a CASSS DC discussion group meeting on “pathways to careers in biopharma and vaccines.” A well-informed group of panelists shared thoughts on academic preparation for working in the biopharmaceutical and vaccine arena and the academic/industry collaboration needed to enhance the education process and guide students down the biotech career pathway.  They explored how the pandemic provides a tailwind for strengthening academia’s ability to fill the workforce needs.

Part VI: Collaborative “Biopharma 4.0” and QRM Training, Apprenticeships in Ireland and UK

The last part of the story takes a look at how collaborative efforts to address the biopharma education and training challenges are taking shape outside the US, with a focus on Ireland and the UK. Included is what Ireland’s National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) is doing to update its contribution to address the training gaps in new process and product technologies, such as those involving CGTs. Advanced therapies are also in focus in the UK through its government-supported Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the collaborative initiatives that are flowing from it. The story concludes with a broader analysis by the World Economic Forum that sheds strong light on how the same kinds of workforce development challenges biopharma is facing are shared by other industries trying to adapt to and take advantage of the pace of technological change.

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