National Science Foundation funds pioneering immuno-biotechnology coursework for college and high school students

Shoreline Community College aims to fill a skill gap in the medical workforce: immuno-biotechnology training in the fast-growing field of biotechnology.

The College, a long-time innovator in biotechnology education, will pioneer new courses and share materials for teaching courses related to immuno-biotechnology through a $572,070 National Science Foundation grant. The funding will establish portable courses for use by two-year colleges and develop instructional kits that will be on loan for local high school biology teachers.

Immuno-biotechnology encompasses two areas vital to modern medicine: developing drug and diagnostic methods that relate to the immune system and manufacturing therapeutic drugs derived from the immune system. The demand for specialized immune system proteins such as antibodies in biomanufacturing and cancer biology is increasing exponentially.

“The Puget Sound region is well-known as a biotechnology and biomedical research hub,” says Dr. Dina Kovarik, chair of the Biotechnology Lab Specialist program at Shoreline Community College. “In recent years, local companies and research institutions have made great strides in developing and adapting the power of the immune system to fight diseases like cancer and autoimmunity. This grant will make is possible to train the technicians needed to enter and succeed in this growing field of immuno-biotechnology,” she adds.

In the Puget Sound, workforce demands for life science technicians grew 9% between 2007-2014, a trend that is likely to continue. However, jobs in immuno-biotechnology require specialized expertise that is not widely available for secondary and college students. Across the nation, it is difficult to find instructional materials organized around immune system products as a central theme.

The gap between evolving industry needs and existing training means that even college graduates and incumbent industry workers must seek additional training or education in immuno-biotechnology to acquire and/or succeed in these jobs. The dissemination of the portable college-level courses and high school-level kits is likely to dramatically improve the preparedness of technicians in biotechnology nationally.

The five new courses (including Case Studies in Drug Development, Cancer Biology, Quality Systems, and Advanced Bioinformatics) will serve as elective courses for students in Shoreline’s biotechnology degree and certificate programs, and build a foundation for a future certificate in immuno-biotechnology. Shoreline Community College is currently the only two-year Washington community or technical college that offers a biotechnology program.


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