September 27, 2016
Steven Bravo was just about to leave the Blinn College Advising Office when he noticed a stack of brochures near the door. Intrigued, he paused, selected one, then turned around to ask an advisor about Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program.
It proved to be a life-altering decision.
At the time, Bravo felt directionless. Formerly an engineering student at Texas A&M, Bravo was a year away from earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering technology when financial difficulties forced him to stop taking courses and enter the workforce for a year.
“What had started as a part-time job in the food services industry had turned into a full-time job, and the directors there were looking to promote me,” Bravo said. “When I realized that was starting to happen, it was a reality check. I told myself that from that day on, I was going to do something every single day to bring me closer to my goal of turning my technical skills into a career.”
Bravo is now close to completing his 60-hour Associate of Applied Sciences in therapeutics manufacturing, a degree that qualifies him for employment in the growing biotechnology industries here in Bryan/College Station. Therapeutics manufacturing is a specialization that blends cutting-edge science with medical research to manufacture the vaccines and other products used to treat, prevent, cure, or diagnose disease.
Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program equipped Bravo with a strong knowledge base in current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), quality assurance control, biomanufacturing processes, and cell culturing. As a result, Bravo was well-prepared for his recent summer internship at iBio CMO, a biotherapeutics manufacturing company in Bryan currently developing proprietary products for, among others, the treatment of a range of fibrotic diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, and scleroderma.
Bravo’s background and enthusiasm allowed him to transition his 10-week internship into a permanent position at iBio CMO.
“cGMP compliance is unique to therapeutics manufacturing, and something I feel is harder for personnel without cGMP experience to grasp and operate under comfortably,” said Isaac Wong, Agronomy Scientist at iBio. “Since Steven was already familiar with the ramifications of cGMP compliance, he was able to adjust to our standards more easily than I would expect other interns. I wish I had Steven’s knowledge of cGMP compliance when I first started working at iBio!”
Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program includes a special topics course that features lectures and question-and-answer sessions led by professionals from local and statewide biotechnology companies, including College Station’s FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, iBio, and MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory. As part of the program, students take an internship course in which they obtain hands-on industry experience.
“The staff in this program do a very good job of staying connected with local companies,” Bravo said.
John Ferreira, Blinn Therapeutics Manufacturing Instructor and the Vice President of Quality and Business Development at MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory, said, “Once an employee is in the industry, companies do not want to lose them because it takes so much energy, time, and money to train people to work in a regulated environment. I know that Blinn students know the rules of operation, rules for how data is reliably kept, and that will be a real bonus for me when I begin filling positions in the lab.”
During his internship at iBio CMO, Bravo found that he could apply his engineering background to assist in maintaining and monitoring equipment. Now, he is looking forward to completing his bachelor’s degree in engineering and using both majors in the biotechnology industry.
“When I had to stop taking courses at Texas A&M, in essence, I was a college dropout,” Bravo said. “That was a very low point in my life. When you don’t have a direction and don’t know where you want to go career-wise, it is demotivating.
“This program came at an affordable price, was short-term, and prepared me for local jobs, and that gave me hope and a new career path.”
For more information on Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program and its degree and certificate programs, including the 36-credit hour Therapeutics Manufacturing Certificate and the 30-credit hour Therapeutics Manufacturing Advanced Technical Certificate, please visit www.blinn.edu/therapeutics.