Amid 125th Anniversary of Clark School, UMD’s Flagship Biotech Training Program Proves to Be Crucial to Maryland’s Growing Industry
The Pedigree of BREP Graduates Within the Biotech Industry Honors the Legacy of UMD’s Clark School of Engineering
November 19, 2019
The A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland has produced remarkable engineers, scientists, life science professionals and entrepreneurs that have shaped the Biohealth Capital Region (BHCR) for well over a century. 2019 marks the Clark School’s 125th anniversary as one of the most important STEM talent pipelines in the region and nation.
The Clark School’s 125th is not the only milestone to be celebrated at the school this year, however. The Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP) achieved a milestone, too, hiring its 125th intern this past summer. BREP’s 125th intern, Amanda Marques, will be starting a process development role with Catalent‘s Paragon Gene Therapy in December.
“It goes without saying that working at the BSF and the BAF (BREP’s two facilities) have been vital in pushing my career forward in the biopharma industry. The work that I have done has directly translated to my desired career. I can honestly say that in the 6 months working here I have learned more doing hands-on lab work than I ever could have in a classroom,” stated Marques.
Housed within the storied Clark School, BREP has made important, if sometimes under-the-radar, contributions to the school’s remarkable workforce development legacy, and has proven to fulfill the A. James Clark University of Maryland School of Engineering Promise, that ‘Every student will have the opportunity for Mpact through hands-on experiences, mentorship, and participation in challenging co-curricular, extracurricular, research, and service-learning initiatives in an inclusive environment.’
Under the leadership of Darryll J. Pines, Dean at the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering, the school has become an important collaborator and an anchor institution for the vibrant biomedical field. In addition to its impact through BREP, the school also became a key partner in launching the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing BioPharmaceuticals (NIIMBL). In a 2016 press release, Dean Pines stated, “University of Maryland Engineering plays a significant role in accelerating biopharmaceutical manufacturing innovation and educating a world-class biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce.”
BREP has been a cornerstone for the University’s Industry engagement strategy over the years. BREP’s Bioprocessing Scale-Up Facility (BSF) has conducted over 1,500 biopharma research projects since 1998, providing valuable support for emerging, growth-stage biotech companies and fulfilling an important role in developing key talent for the region.
Across more than three decades, BREP has produced approximately 127 program graduates. Many of the graduates have become highly successful biotech industry leaders, innovators and serial entrepreneurs within Maryland’s biotech industry, and collectively have contributed more than 1,200 years of work into the biotech field since their graduations.
“My experience at the University of Maryland BSF launched my career in the biotech industry. The knowledge I gained during those four years served as the scientific foundation to later excel in the field. The BSF provided exceptional training for both graduate school and industrial life. The facility provides a unique bridge between students, academia, and the biotech industry that highlights the very best the University of Maryland has to offer,” shared Don Startt, BREP class of ‘00, and current Director of Process Development at cell therapy leader REGENXBIO.
BREP has also served as the development arm of emerging companies, empowering these companies to serve larger clients without making major hiring and capital investments. In fact, three companies in particular that leveraged BREP in the early days went on to be sold for more than $1B each. There may not be another single program like BREP in the whole state that has been tied to as many companies who have achieved such blockbuster exists.
BHCR anchors MedImmune (acquired by AstraZeneca for $15.6B), Paragon BioServices (acquired by Catalent for $1.2B), Martek (acquired by DSM for $1.1B) and BioFactura all leveraged BREP’s solutions early on to scale manufacturing, which helped propel future growth and success.
“The BSF was a critical contributor to my career as it educated me on the application of biopharmaceutical and drug development sciences. The training at BSF enabled me to obtain my first career position out of college, at Human Genome Sciences, ” shared Alex Smith, Director of Regulatory Sciences at Hogan Lovells and BREP class of 99’ alum.
“I’m grateful this program existed. I now focus on counseling clients regarding the development and regulation of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and combination products as part of the legal firm of Hogan Lovells LLP in Washington D.C. I’ve been able to develop business strategies for international clients such as Novartis, Medtronic, Baxter, Google, Amazon and Phillip Morris, all of which provide FDA regulated drug and medical device products. I can say for certain, I would not be working in this field if not for the internship at the BSF,” Smith added.
Nate Forrest, Principal of Gaithersburg’s AllianceBIO, a 2006 graduate of the BSF/BREP program, had this to say about his experience: “I’ve had the chance to reflect on my career in biotech and the impact my undergraduate BSF experiences had on my career progression and opportunities…As a BSF employee, I was able to learn development and pilot-scale equipment, advancing me years in what would have normally been learned slowly over time on the job. This advancement set the foundation for my career enabling me to succeed at multiple Maryland biotechnology firms and gave me the capabilities needed to operate and grow my own life sciences consulting firm, AllianceBio (ABIO).”
“Students exposed to the BSF/BREP program are better positioned to perform on the job directly out of college. Hence, the program accounts for the primary resource pool that we target for entry level talent and we hope to continue to do so in the future, further growing our company and bolstering the life sciences industry in Maryland,” he added.
Ben Woodard, BREP’s Director and member of the class of 97’, is humbled by the achievements of the program and nostalgic about what the program provided to him as a young, developing University of Maryland student.
“I’ve tried to emulate my mentors over the past 20 plus years, knowing that my responsibility now is to carry the torch and prepare students for a career in biopharma. When I look over this list of students that have benefited from this program, it’s truly impressive. There isn’t a biotech company in the State that hasn’t benefited in some way from the successes of our students,” he added.
BREP has been an important part of the Clark School’s rich, 125-year history of education, training and talent development. Along with other critical talent development programs in the region, BREP has and continues to play an invaluable role in workforce development and resource support, which are the linchpins of any thriving biohealth cluster.
The Biotech industry is booming across the nation, and especially in Maryland and the BioHealth Capital Region where there are more than 2,000 new biotech jobs projected within the next 24 months. Programs like BREP have proved to be one of Maryland’s greatest competitive advantages by producing the talent so desperately needed to fill the most in-demand jobs, and retain and attract the top biopharma companies so the region can grow and move closer to becoming the top three biotech cluster by 2023.