Blinn College therapeutics manufacturing students have dedicated long hours learning the science and compliance behind the industry. They recently witnessed those skills in action at the world’s largest manufacturer of plant-based therapeutics, Caliber Biotherapeutics.
“It opened my eyes to what actually takes place in a biotherapeutics manufacturing facility,” said Cristina Walicki, a first-semester therapeutics manufacturing student. “Seeing it in person is different from hearing about it in class. What this did for me was put a picture to what they’re talking about in class, and I really think that’s going to help me moving forward.”
Walicki toured the Bryan facility as part of her Special Topics in Biotherapeutics course. Dr. Sylvain Marcel, senior scientist specializing in molecular biology, provided the students detailed insight into the process of producing therapeutic products using a tobacco-like plant as the host expression platform.
In 2012, the Texas A&M University System announced it had been awarded a contract to develop a national, class-leading biopharmaceutical center in Bryan-College Station, ushering in a new wave of therapeutics manufacturing jobs throughout the Brazos Valley. Blinn introduced its Therapeutics Manufacturing Program to provide companies the qualified graduates they will need as they develop operations in Bryan-College Station.
“It has been my experience that the only way you’re unemployed in that industry is if you want to be unemployed,” said John Ferreira, program director. “There are just so many opportunities, both locally and internationally in biotechnology and biotherapeutics manufacturing.”
A 29-year industry veteran, Ferreira has worked in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. He ran his own company for 15 years and previously served as Caliber’s Director of Quality, contributing to the conceptual design and final build of the one-of-a-kind Caliber facility. The visit was part of a program initiative to give Blinn students hands-on experience with industry application. In addition to visiting therapeutics manufacturing facilities, industry experts are routinely invited to speak to the students about their area of expertise.
“It’s one thing to teach it in a classroom, but it’s another to go to a company and see everything they’ve learned in class implemented in a real-life application,” Ferreira said. “They get to see everything we’ve learned in class come to life.”
Students who earn Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing associate degree and certificate program are prepared for entry-level positions in manufacturing, quality control and quality assurance.