Member Spotlight: Q&A with Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Mar 01, 2022

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In March, we spoke with Floyd E. Brownewell, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Practice, BETC, in the Department of of Biology and Biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Floyd’s career spans research and development, heavy chemicals manufacturing, healthcare single use manufacturing, and academia. This experience has allowed him to understand the need for innovation and invention coupled with manufacturability, and bring his unique perspective to the classroom and his projects.

Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives.

The Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center (BETC) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute opened in 2007 to support the workforce needs of the biomanufacturing industry. Initial programs focused on re-training displaced workers in the region. Today, BETC offers comprehensive programming spanning inexperienced, entry-level workers to scientists and engineers seeking new or expanded knowledge in the field. Additionally, we support a skills-based MS in Biotechnology degree through hands-on student experiences at the BETC.

How do your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?

The BETC aims to support patients by providing the training and education needed for a modern workforce to grow and succeed in a dynamic, highly technical field. Our programs support biopharmaceutical manufacturers by offering hands-on experiences for operators, engineers, and even support staff. We support the suppliers of biopharmaceutical manufacturers by guiding them through processes their customers use every day, enabling suppliers to better understand the needs of the industry to become faster and more efficient with improved cost-effectiveness.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?

The most significant challenge to biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the region is qualifying a workforce at increased scale. The need in the region is growing rapidly. Employers are struggling to identify qualified workers. The alternative is training people to reach the required skill and knowledge level. Companies are stretched to do this on their own without interrupting manufacturing schedules. BETC is a place industry looks to for training support.

What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?

BETC courses are focused on a base of Upstream and Downstream principles, adjusting topic depth and activities to our audience. In this dynamic industry, we continually pivot to add training opportunities our client base tells us they need. In response, we are adding sections of Fundamentals of Biomanufacturing aimed at entry-level workers, developed a new course focused on cell therapy equipment and techniques, and we are exploring opportunities to expose our undergraduates to larger scale, automated equipment to improve readiness for science and engineering roles.

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