Recent innovations have enabled development of new therapies that reengineer the body’s immune system. These therapies include medical treatments with bioengineered cells (cell therapy) and medical treatments with drugs or other molecules that alter immune system function (immunotherapy). With the rapid development of these therapies, the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry has made major advancements toward curing some of society’s most devastating cancers and diseases. Manufacture of these therapies requires large numbers of skilled biomanufacturing technicians. Yet, due to the relative novelty of the relevant manufacturing processes, there are few community college training programs that focus on biomanufacturing of cell/immunotherapies. As a result, the U.S. has a significant workforce shortage for biomanufacturing technicians with these skills. With this award, Shoreline Community College proposes to develop a Cell/Immunotherapy Hub, with the goal of increasing the number of skilled biomanufacturing technicians in this sector. These technicians will help fill regional and national workforce shortages in the rapidly expanding field of cell/immunotherapy production. This workforce is essential for maintaining national health, security, and economic growth.
The project team will build on knowledge generated from its past initiatives to advance the groundbreaking innovations in cell and immunotherapies. The project has three goals: 1) develop comprehensive labor market and skills-gap analysis of cell/immunotherapy technicians on a national level; 2) develop best-practices for outreach and pipeline development to include people from underrepresented groups and high school students in these careers; and 3) become a knowledge-source and catalyst for other community colleges to develop cell/immunotherapy technician education programs and curriculum. These efforts will contribute to a diverse biomanufacturing workforce equipped with the knowledge and expertise to meet the demands of the cell/immunotherapy biomanufacturing industry. The project will deliver high school teacher workshops to ensure that youth are aware of the technologies and related career opportunities. It intends to produce outreach and recruitment materials focused on individuals from groups that have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will disseminate findings to high schools, community colleges, and industry stakeholders nationally. Not only will this work improve the skills and advancement opportunities for technicians in the biomanufacturing industry, but it has the potential to accelerate the competitiveness of the rapidly growing U.S. cell/immunotherapy sector and the production of curative medicines for deadly diseases. 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.