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‘Not your typical curriculum’

Ana Walicki, Goran Sabljic discover new career paths in Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program

April 26, 2017

Ana Walicki and Goran SabljicFor Ana Walicki and Goran Sabljic, enrolling in Blinn College’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program was a change worth making.

Both students were on track to earn a nursing degree at Blinn when a classmate persuaded the pair to give the College’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program a try. Shortly after enrolling in an introductory course, Walicki and Sabljic knew that a career in the growing biotechnology industry was the perfect fit.

“I thoroughly enjoyed how innovative the classes were,” Walicki said. “It is not your typical curriculum. Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program is very specific and career-focused – you learn skills that directly translate into the field.”

Walicki and Sabljic recently completed their 60-hour Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) in therapeutics manufacturing, a degree that qualifies them 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 vaccines and other products used to treat, prevent, cure, or diagnose disease.

Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program equipped Walicki and Sabljic with a strong knowledge base in current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), upstream and downstream manufacturing processes, various biomanufacturing platforms, quality assurance and control, and aseptic processing techniques. As a result, the pair arrived well-prepared for their internship at MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory, Inc., a recent startup in College Station that provides biomolecular product characterization studies and analytical research support services to pharmaceutical companies. The company also develops algorithms for identifying biomarkers in a range of autoimmune and oncology diseases, including Sjogren’s Syndrome (SjS), Alzheimer’s disease, and various forms of cancer.

Sabljic’s background in the construction industry combined with Walicki’s meticulous eye for details allow the pair to work efficiently together in the laboratory, completing tasks such as maintaining equipment, sample preparation, and documenting every procedure.

“MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory has a learn-as-you-go environment,” Sabljic said. “It can be very challenging, but I like that we have the opportunity to collaborate with each other in high-pressure situations.”

Walicki is set to graduate this spring with hopes of obtaining full-time employment at a local biotechnology company, while Sabljic has one more semester remaining in the program.

Ana Walicki and Goran Sabljic“Once a person enters this industry, companies do not want to lose them because it takes so much time and money to train employees and develop the appropriate competencies in their workforce,” said John Ferreira, Blinn Therapeutics Manufacturing Instructor and Vice President of Quality and Business Development at MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory, Inc. “I know that Blinn students learn the rules for operations in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-regulated environment, and gain practical experience in good documentation practices through their academic training and internships. This is a real bonus for biotherapeutics manufacturing firms as they look to expand their workforce.”

In addition to an internship course, Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program includes a special topics course (BITC 1191) 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.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for therapeutics manufacturing technicians are projected to grow five percent from 2014 to 2024. Technicians can expect to earn an average median salary of $41,650. Continued growth in biotechnology and medical research is expected to increase the demand for this industry, according to the agency.

“I am in the right place at the right time,” Walicki said. “Several pharmaceutical companies are being established – especially in the Bryan/College Station area – so there are many options for employment. The opportunities are there; you just have to stay connected.”

For more information on Blinn’s Therapeutics Manufacturing Program and its degree and certificate programs, including the 36-credit hour Therapeutics Manufacturing Cerficate and the 30-credit hour Therapeutics Manufacturing Advanced Technical Certificate, visit: www.blinn/therapeutics.