Perspectives Online

N.C. State's BTEC will help create jobs for North Carolina

While North Carolina ranks among the top three biotechnology regions in the United States, a lack of well-trained workers needed for the coming boom in biopharmaceuticals could threaten the state's place among the national leaders in the emerging biomanufacturing industry.

The new Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) being constructed on N.C. State University's Centennial Campus will be the largest facility of its kind in the nation and will answer the state's need for biomanufacturing training. Through partnerships with community colleges, BTEC's distance education and on-site programs will train up to 2,000 to 3,000 students and prospective employees per year for the state's biomanufacturing industry.

Biomanufacturing companies create new end products from living cells or their components. These products include medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, enzymes, amino acids, veterinary medicines and related products that improve lives, create jobs and boost the state's economy.

The state's biotechnology industry currently employs about 20,000 people at almost 200 companies. Relatively few new workers currently receive the needed training, while some estimates place the need at roughly 3,000 new employees per year.

BTEC will simulate a biomanufacturing pilot plant facility capable of producing biopharmaceutical products and packaging them in a sterile environment. It also will include support training and education classrooms, laboratories, building and process utilities. The facility will be outfitted so that students will gain experience using the same large-scale equipment they would use on the job.

The center also will help attract new biomanufacturing companies to North Carolina, assist the development of new technologies for production of value-added biopharmaceuticals, protein-based products and chemicals from organisms, plants, cell cultures and other bio-based systems; and enhance the creation of rural biomanufacturing jobs and new agribusiness opportunities.

Golden LEAF has provided about $34 million to design, build and equip the BTEC, as part of an overall $60 million grant for biomanufacturing research training at North Carolina Central and for five Regional Skill Centers in the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). The NCCCS also will operate a BioNetwork learning center within BTEC.

In addition to BTEC, several existing and planned degrees at N.C. State will prepare students to work in the biomanufacturing industry. For example: a graduate certificate program in molecular biotechnology; a biotechnology-pharmaceutical concentration within the Master of Business Administration (MBA), which will prepare students for managerial positions in the biotechnology industry; a biomolecular engineering degree with a bioprocessing focus; and a new bioprocessing science degree in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

- NCSU News Services