5 Questions with Mark Nardone, PMP, Director, Bio-Trac®

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This edition features 5 Questions with Mark Nardone, PMP, Director, Bio-Trac®.

Mark Nardone is Director and Co-Founder of Bio-Trac®, a biotechnology training program that has served the scientific community for over 37 years, providing hands-on training workshops, designed by active researchers for research scientists, that focus on the latest relevant techniques that are necessary for laboratory research.  

1. Tell us about your career and now decades with Bio-Trac®. Please introduce the program.

What a great ride it’s been; thirty-seven years of providing hands-on training to over 17,000+ research scientists. We have been fortunate, being able to work with some of the top scientists (over 300) in a variety of fields while conducting these programs. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and recognizing the opportunity afforded to us.    

Bio-Trac® evolved out of a series of one-off workshops given by Dr. Roland M. Nardone (CUA, Professor, Director – Center for Advanced Training in Cell and Molecular Biology) during the late 1970s and early 1980s at the National Institutes of Health. It was evident that there was great interest by the NIH for additional hands-on training for their post-docs, primarily in “Animal and Human Tissue Culture”; Cell and Molecular Approaches to the Study of Cancer; “Immunology”; as well as “Recombinant DNA Methodology.” 

Along with the support of NIDDK, there was a vision of a more formalized program at the NIH.  In 1985, Dr. Nardone and I created Bio-Trac® and formalized an agreement with the FAES at the NIH to conduct these hands-on workshops.  After thirty years at the NIH,  Bio-Trac® moved to the Montgomery College Bioscience Education Center, a state of the art facility designed for training.  This move gave us additional flexibility and resources to further expand the training program and support other worthwhile initiatives (Research Symposiums, BioPanels, MD Science Olympiad, Bio-Trac® Webinar Series).     

2. Why are programs like Bio-Trac® so crucial to the BioHealth Capital Region?

There are many factors that contribute to a sustainable ecosystem’s success, one being the availability of a trained and experienced workforce.  Companies coming into a region look at the existing workforce as well as available resources in the area. Biotech operates in a space that is ever-evolving, in which new technologies and applications are commonplace.  Many of the workshop methods/applications we offer now were not available or even considered five to seven years ago.  We keep the research scientist up to date and relevant in these emerging fields and methodologies by offering these timely workshops.        

3. What goals do you have for Bio-Trac® over the next 3 years?

Our current priority is to determine how we can best assist those who have been economically affected by covid-19 (be it a loss of income or a career path that is no longer.)  We are part of an initiative looking to provide training to those in this category to start a career in the biopharma industry.  Montgomery College Biotech Department is currently running a one-month pilot Bootcamp, sponsored by WorkSource Montgomery, addressing this very subject.  More to come shortly. Stay Tuned.

Longer-Term Goals:

  1. Continue to grow our National Symposium & Workshop offerings at the Montgomery College Bioscience Education Center.  We started this format with great success a few years ago with AstraZeneca. Offering a symposium that attracted scientists from national and international research institutions and a hands-on laboratory experience option for those who so choose.  The Third Annual AstraZeneca “Multiplex Immunofluorescence in Immune Oncology Symposium and Workshop” is scheduled for September 14-17, 2021.  Other national organizations have taken note of this, and discussions are ongoing for future events for late 2021 or 2022.
  2. We currently conduct 25-30 workshops a year at the BEC.  We envision adding another five new workshop topics in the next two years. (Check Point Inhibitors, CAR T, Hi-C, Python, etc.).  We will see where science takes us. 
  3. Continue to support the scientific community through the Bio-Trac® BioPanel program as well as other outreach programs.  These panels, which are open to the scientific community, provides an opportunity for research scientists to interact with expert panels in various topics of biotechnology.  The past two programs were on Stem Cell and Gene Editing with CRISPR.
  4. Continue to offer custom-designed training workshops for those who have a group of scientists needing training in a specific topic or technique.         

4. If you could wave a magic wand and improve something about training programs in the BioHealth space like Bio-Trac®, what would it be and why?

A clear understanding of the value and opportunity these workshops bring to the researcher and organization. Being able to go into an environment, be fully immersed in the methodology, learn it in a reproducible fashion from an active researcher and apply it towards your research in a short time is a tremendous value. The end result is increased efficiency, reproducibility, and productivity.

The part that is sometimes overlooked is the relationships that come out of these training workshops. You have a group of researchers interested in a specific topic, with varying experience levels, working in different research areas (cardio, diabetes, iPCS, neuro, etc.), sharing ideas. I am always amazed. Word would get back to me six months to a year later, a participant is writing a grant with another participant or has published a paper with one of our instructors or someone else in the program.

5. If you weren’t in this line of work, what career would you want to pursue, and why?

Well, I guess I missed the boat as a professional hockey-playing-switch-hitting-brain-surgeon- astronaut-blues-guitarist… I will let you guess which ones of these are my hobbies. I am not sure what the new career path would be.  I am analytical by nature, a people-person at heart, and thrive in an intellectually stimulating environment.  The key for me would be, “Does it have a positive impact on society?” “Am I making a difference?” Through Bio-Trac®, I know we have made a difference.   

Thank you to Mark Nardone for participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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