The £2.7m ($3.5m) University of London (UCL)-Pall Biotech Centre of Excellence (CoE) will operate from September 2018 through 2024, and be staffed by nine engineering doctorates and a post-doctorate research associate.
According to Pall, the company will engage with UCL’s biochemical engineering department “to enable knowledge transfer and address critical industry challenges”.
“Such a programme will create a talent pool of experienced doctorial researchers with expertise in technology areas of interest to Pall Biotech,” a Pall spokesperson told us.
Strategic alliance director of UCL’s biochemical engineering department, Naveraj Gill, agreed the centre would benefit both trainees and industry: “The new CoE will work to enhance drug production and empower the future workforce.”
The CoE is part of Pall’s larger educational strategy, designed to support local industrial needs and specific regional process requirements around the world.
“In order to support our growth strategy in the global biotech market, we have to be close to the industry in all geographic regions.
“For this reason, we are establishing collaborations around the world with leading institutions that can provide centres of excellence for both training and applications and research support work,” we were told.
More than a trend?
The UCL-Pall Biotech CoE joins a growing number of bioprocessing training centres around the world, including Ireland’s National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) in Dublin and GE Healthcare Life Sciences-run Testa Center in Uppsala, Sweden.
NIBRT, which offers training in a replicated good manufacturing practice (GMP) bioprocessing environment, opened in 2011. The institute has since incorporated technology from suppliers including Emerson, and GE Healthcare Life Sciences. In February this year, NIBRT announced plans to expand to North America, via a partnership with Philadelphia’s Jefferson University.
“We’re delighted to see the global focus on biopharma workforce development and are developing partnerships with similar international organisations,” said Killian O’Driscoll, director of projects at NIBRT.
According to O’Driscoll, increased industry demand for complex manufacturing processes is contributing to the growing number of workforce development programmes.
“We’re seeing an increased diversification in the types of therapeutic modalities in the clinical pipeline, from more complex monoclonal antibodies to a wide range of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPS).
“In parallel, these modalities require increasingly complex advanced manufacturing and supply chain solutions involving a broad range of technologies, such as single use, digitisation, automation, continuous manufacturing, artificial intelligence etc.,” he told us.
As a result, there is a global demand for people with skills in these technologies, he added: “It is encouraging to see the sector responding by focusing on comprehensive workforce development initiatives.”
GE: ‘Not a sudden trend, rather a growing need’
GE Healthcare Life Sciences, which has bioprocessing centres in multiple locations, told us its training service is an important part of the business: “This is not a sudden trend, rather a growing need,” a GE spokesperson told us.
The company’s recently opened Testa BioProcess Innovation Centre, was founded in collaboration with the Swedish Government, and houses four bioprocessing laboratories with predominantly single-use technologies, for use by ’siteless’ biotech firms and academics.
“The Testa center will be used by Uppsala University to provide training in bioprocessing as part of its master program in molecular biotechnology engineering,” the spokesperson continued.
“We also have the GE Healthcare Life Sciences European training center at the same site in Uppsala, Sweden.”
According to NIBRT’s O’Driscoll, the workforce development programme movement will continue to expand: ”As products and their related manufacturing processes become increasingly complex, the demand for a highly skilled biopharma workforce is predicted to increase significantly.”
GE has also observed a growing need for training through the growth of the biopharma industry, the spokesperson told us, “and we are committed to support it by continuing to provide training services.”