The Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology (PIC MC) Brings Together Innovation and Education

The Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology at Montgomery College (PIC MC) Combines Innovation and Education – a smart choice for co-location.

The BioHealth Capital Region has come to be known for its unique blend of Industry, Government, and Academia from Baltimore to Charlottesville. Unlike many of the other Biotech Hubs across the United States, the geographic spacing, which at times has been seen as a challenge in the region, has created new opportunities.

Montgomery County, Maryland, with Government agencies such as NIH and the FDA, along with Industry leaders like Emergent and GSK, is also the home to the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology (PIC MC) located on Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus.

What makes PIC MC and Montgomery College so unique? “Community colleges have long been in the business of economic development.” Said Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, President of Montgomery College. “Montgomery College is a driver in this effort in Montgomery County, building the pipeline of talented, highly skilled workers for our local industries.

Aligning our curricula with industry standards ensures that our students gain the skills they need to be competitive in the workforce of the future.  PIC MC has a pivotal role in connecting our students in biotechnology and technology areas with the companies located on the campus for the experience they need.”

Zoned as a Life Sciences Center, the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology at Montgomery College (PIC MC) is an integrated academic, business, and research campus, where businesses locate and collaborate with students and faculty for the educational and commercial benefits of both.

The Montgomery College Germantown Campus features the Bioscience Education Center (BEC) and Holy Cross Germantown Hospital with a Medical Office Building, which are critical cornerstones for the institution along with the county-owned Germantown Innovation Center, an incubator for growing area biotech companies. The Bioscience Education Center (BEC) offers educational opportunities in life sciences to students, faculty, and corporate partners providing a wide array of laboratory teaching and research space, along with wet Labs, classrooms, offices, and even a greenhouse complex.

The credit Biotechnology Program at Montgomery College offers a 2-year degree in Biotechnology for students with no college degree and a certificate for students who already have a college degree. Approximately 50% of the Biotech students at MC already have a 4-year degree or higher in a Life Science.   

The program prepares students to begin their Biotechnology careers as research associates, manufacturing associates, or quality control specialists. The curriculum was developed and is constantly updated using input from the local Biotechnology companies, including some of the over 300 former MC Biotech graduates currently employed in the BioHealth Capital Region.  

Hands-on instruction takes place in the state-of-the-art Bioscience Education Center located on the Germantown Campus. Students learn GXPs, cell culture, how to operate a bioreactor, and how to operate an FPLC, along with necessary lab skills.  All the labs are taught using SOPs or batch records. Lectures focus on the theory behind the laboratory operations.  

“This is an amazing time to begin a career in Biotechnology and make a difference in the world starting right here in Montgomery County and Maryland.” Said Collins Jones, Biotechnology Program Coordinator, Montgomery College. “A number of Maryland biotech companies are leading the fight against Covid, and the demand for employees is greater than ever.  The Biotech Program at Montgomery College is a great way to start your Biotechnology Career.” 

The BEC is also the home to programs such as Bio-Trac® led by Mark Nardone, PMP. Bio-Trac® offers three to five-day training programs designed by active researchers focused on the latest relevant techniques that are necessary for laboratory research. Open to the scientific community, all programs are taught by experts and active researchers from prestigious institutions such as the NIH, FDA, USDA, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins, as well as from private industry. 

We are excited to be located at the MC Bioscience Education Center (BEC), centrally located in the BioHealth Capital Region. The combination of strong leadership by the college and the state-of-the-art facilities provides the environment needed to execute high quality, high-level training for research scientists.” said Mark Nardone, Director, Co-Founder, Bio-Trac®.

“You cannot help but get excited about the Montgomery College Germantown Biotech Ecosystem and what is taking place. It’s a logical progression that starts with investment in youth STEM initiatives, then the Early College program for 11th & 12th graders; AAS degrees and Certificates in Biotechnology and in Biomanufacturing (vetted and endorsed by area pharma) as well as the association with PIC MC, Bio-Trac continues to provide hands-on training for research scientists at an MD/Ph.D. level as well as other outreach programs for the science community (Bio-Panels, symposiums, joint initiatives, custom workshops, weekly webinars, and scientific retreats).”

The Montgomery County-owned Germantown Innovation Center (GIC) at PIC MC provides more than 30,000 square feet of small wet lab, office, and meeting space for companies working to develop early-stage life sciences and cyber/similar technologies.  In addition to shared equipment and meeting space, the Center offers companies more flexible rent terms enabling them to grow their business through prototype/proof of concept stages. The GIC is supported by Montgomery College and Montgomery County government and is focused on supporting companies to scale, graduate, and hire Montgomery County residents in expanded space on the PIC MC campus or elsewhere in Montgomery County.

The close proximity provides a unique opportunity for students, faculty, and industry to interact and share training.  Several GIC companies have received training on the Biotechnology labs’ advanced equipment, including their MiSeq NGS sequencer, BioRad S3 FACS unit, AKTA Avant FPLCs, and BioFlo 310 bioreactors. Additionally, some of the GIC companies have hired MC Biotech students as employees.  As PIC MC continues to grow, the Biotechnology Program is growing along with it and expand their instructional capabilities, including additional industry-designed courses. 

Recent successes from the Germantown Innovation Center include graduate companies Arecellx Inc. and Neuraly. Arcellx is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel, adaptive, and controllable cell therapies to treat patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases. Arcellx’s vision is to bring ARC-sparX platform cell therapies to millions of patients, who can self-administer prescribed sparX proteins under the care of academic and community practices.

Neuraly is a biotech company founded by scientists and physicians with a worldwide reputation in neurodegenerative diseases. Developing treatments that offer new hope, address new pathways, and capitalize on their founder’s innovation and deliver medicines with the potential to change lives.

Current Germantown Innovation Center tenant, Zalgen, is dedicated to developing and deploying medical interventions to save the lives of individuals around the world suffering from these often-overlooked diseases.  Since 2011, Zalgen has focused its efforts on targeting neglected and underrepresented human viral infectious diseases, particularly viral hemorrhagic diseases that include the Ebola virus (EBOV) and the Lassa virus (LASV).

New construction is planned at 19710 Observation Drive with Minkoff/South Duvall and Scheer Partners pursuing tenants as PIC MC’s Development Team. “I’ve associated with Montgomery College since my college years as a student. It is an honor to help guide the 19seven10 Observation Drive Building at the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology with our partners at Minkoff Development.” said Robert Scheer, President, Scheer Partners, Inc.

“Attracting and retaining talent is a top priority in Life Sciences, and the novel relationship between PIC MC and 19seven10 provides a competitive advantage beyond just a real estate location deal. It also creates opportunities to educate and place talent developed through Montgomery College with growing companies who are also part of their ecosystem.”

With so much momentum happening at Montgomery College and PIC MC, it’s hard not to be excited about the future. The campus, which has grown over the decades, has become a site of Innovation. The Bioscience Education Center, the Germantown Innovation Center, and Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, in addition to the addition of 19seven10 Observation Drive Building, confirms that PIC has become its own biohub within the BioHealth Capital Region. The new construction in process for lifescience companies to take their next steps forward with access to affordable space, talent, and resources is only the next chapter in a story with many more to come. 

“It’s been a great pleasure to participate in PIC MC evolving over the past six years with an eye on the future, especially given the 19seven10 Observation Drive Building construction with a major tenant,” said Martha Schoonmaker, Executive Director, PIC MC. “Life Sciences companies here in the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond are realizing that the benefits of being here with access to Industry, Academics, and Entrepreneurial resources make the Pinkney Innovation Complex for Science and Technology a smart choice for co-location.”

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Andy Eckert

Andy has worked with BioBuzz for the last decade to help spread the word of the BioHealth Capital Region even before it was branded with that name. His background includes years at MedImmune supporting the Commercial Operations Organization before becoming a BioHealth Nomad working with various clients in Operations, Communications and Strategic Services.