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September 16, 2013

New program places Blinn students on cutting edge of biotechnology

Therapeutics Manufacturing Program hosting its first class this Fall


John FerreiraA new Blinn College program that places students on the cutting edge of biotechnology is now officially underway.

Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program introduced its first class, Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) Procedures and Documentation, this semester. The program, which offers a 69-credit hour Associate of Applied Science degree and an Advanced Training Certificate for students who already hold a science-based bachelor’s degree, trains students for entry-level positions in manufacturing and quality control with firms focused on developing and delivering state-of-the-art therapeutics products.

Therapeutics Manufacturing is a developing specialization that blends cutting-edge science with medical research to manufacture the vaccines and other therapeutics necessary to ward off diseases and biohazards.

The Texas A&M University System announced last year that it has 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. Companies such as Kalon, Lonza, GSK and Caliber have already come to the Brazos Valley in the wake of the announcement.

Program Director John Ferreira, a 29-year industry veteran, said companies in the field are seeking the qualified graduates Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program can provide.

“The only way you’re unemployed in that industry is if you want to be unemployed,” he said. “There are just too many opportunities, both locally and internationally.”

The opportunity for quick employment was a draw for Jonathan Utley, who earned his bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology at Texas A&M but struggled to find a job in the biotech industry. The internship opportunities included in Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program will provide the hands-on experience and specific training necessary for employment as a technician.

“Most places want you to have some experience when you apply, and you can’t get that without an internship,” Utley said. “That’s one of the great things about this program, is that you get that internship opportunity and it leads you straight from the classroom into actual physical applications. As students looking to get jobs, we need that real-world experience.”

Armando Tejeda, a sophomore from College Station, was drawn to the program by the opportunity for employment after just two years. He will earn his associate degree in therapeutics manufacturing while working toward a bachelor’s degree in biology.

“I liked that this was a more focused program than getting the biology degree first,” Tejeda said.

“I’d heard about the Research Valley Partnership and the pharmaceutical companies that were coming into Bryan-College Station, and that was why I was looking to prepare myself for that sort of career.”

Ferreira, who was hired in May to develop curriculum for the new program, has worked overseas in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada in a career that included serving as senior vice president of quality at Kalon Biotherapeutics and director of quality at Caliber Biotherapeutics. For 18 years, Ferreira ran his own company, Banziger Systems, which consulted for many other firms within the industry.

“You can really tell he has a lot of experience in the field,” Tejeda said. “He definitely knows the ins and outs, and as a student that’s incredibly valuable.”

But Ferreira’s industry experience may be even more valuable to his students once they’re outside the classroom.

“I have a really good feel for who is hiring and who is good to work for,” he said. “I think those relationships are going to be really beneficial to Blinn students because that’s what this program is all about – not just educating them, but also making certain they find jobs within the industry.”

Students who earn the associate degree are qualified for entry-level positions in manufacturing, quality control and quality assurance. Students who earn the Advanced Training Certificate can obtain those positions as well as entry-level regulatory positions.

For more information about Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program, visit: www.blinn.edu/therapeutics or email Ferreira at john.ferreira@blinn.edu.