Veteran Biotech Founder Marco Chacon Joins Industry Leaders to Teach High School Students about Careers in Biotech in Virtual Lecture Series
Marco Chacon, the former Paragon Bioservices, now Catalent Gene Therapy, founder was among the top industry leaders who participated in a unique biotech workforce lecture series this past Summer. The virtual program was hosted by the Biotechnology Research & Education Program, better known as BREP, that was discontinued by the University of Maryland in July of 2020, ending one of the most successful biotech workforce development programs in the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR).
Before BREP’s doors closed for good, the program had launched a virtual learning webinar series to teach high school students about careers in the life science industry. Former Program Direct Ben Woodard and former Program Manager Kevin Knapstein leveraged their deep network of industry connections and former BREP graduates to provide area high school students with an insightful, uplifting, informative introduction to careers in biotechnology. Despite the learning challenges that COVID-19 presented, Woodard and Knapstein were determined to deliver a valuable program to their BREP students and developed this virtual lecture series to give them something that would be unforgettable and inspired their career path.
The final lecture of the series featured Maryland biotech stalwart and thirty-year industry veteran Dr. Marco Chacón. Chacón led Paragon Bioservices, the notable biomanufacturing CDMO, up to and through its $1.2B acquisition by Catalent Pharmaceuticals in 2019. Today, he is Chairman of the Board at The Discovery Labs, and he is the Founder and President of IRAZÚ Bio.
Chacón graciously showed his commitment to these students by volunteering nearly two hours talking to them about his experiences and his career and answering their questions.
Chacón shared why he believed so strongly in the potential for rewarding and groundbreaking careers in biotechnology, sharing, “A genome that cost $100,000 to make 10 or 15 years ago, companies are now doing genomes for a few hundred bucks which is an incredible leap in technology…It is a privilege for all of you to be witnesses of, and participants in, what is a revolution in thought. If the last century, the 20th century, was the century of physics, this century is the century of biology, chemistry and molecular biology.”
“There was a paradigm shift from small molecule compounds to biologics. This leap was made because of the birth and growth of biotechnology. In 2017, it was a watershed year in the history of technology and humanity – the majority of compounds approved by the FDA were biologics rather than small molecules for the first time in the history of mankind,” he added.
You can hear Chacón’s compelling story and the full webinar below.
Knapstein stated, “We can’t thank all the speakers enough for sharing their time with us and our students over the past few weeks. It has been a great opportunity to explore topics and expand our understanding about biotech and science. Educating the future crop of biotech professionals should be a priority. Special thanks to all speakers and mentors that lent a hand and aided our passion in education.”
Chacón’s virtual webinar was the last of many that were joined by top industry leaders that showed the same level of generosity by donating their time and energy this summer to inspire the region’s life science workforce of the future.
In addition to Chacón, other lecture series participants included:
- Andrew Lees, Ph.D., Scientific Director, and Owner, Fina BioSolutions LLC
- Arlene Weichert, VP, Automated Control Concepts
- Don Startt, Director, Upstream Process Development at REGENXBIO Inc.
- Nathan Forrest, PMP, Principal, Managing Partner at ABIO
- Gary Fanger, President & Chief Executive Officer at Rise Therapeutics
- John F. Kerwin, Senior Manager Gene Therapy Manufacturing Sciences, Biogen
- James M. Sulzberger, Director, Technical at Aldevron
- Brad Stasny, Director, Bioprocess Business Development, Eppendorf
- Rick Culotta, Bioprocess Sales Engineer at New Brunswick Scientific Bioprocess Group
- Collins Jones, Biotechnology Professor, and Department Coordinator at Montgomery College
- Jessica Tsaoi, Senior Sales Manager – North America, Automation, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences
- Martha Connolly, Former Director, Mtech Baltimore and Director of BioEntrepreneurship, at University of Maryland
- Virginia M Crews, BD Manager at Maryland Dept of Commerce / Office of BioHealth & Life Sciences
- Ed Eisenstein, Investigator, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR)
- Mark Marten, Professor & Chair, Dept of Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering, UMBC
- Gregory Payne, Professor, University of Maryland
- Kenny Borkmann, Brewmaster, Brookville Bear Farm
- Timothy Fothergill, Head of Quality, Denizens Brewing
- Ken Carter, Owner, Maryland Mead Works
- Takatsugu (“Taka”) Amano., Co-founder, American Shochu Company
BREP’s legacy of workforce development continues to reverberate throughout the region. It’s virtual lecture series was yet another example of how the program always sought to inspire the next generation of life science innovators and contributors that are so vital to sustaining the growth and success of the BHCR.
BioBuzz gives a special thanks to Ben Woodard, Kevin Knapstein, and their former staff for the impact that they have made for so many people and companies in the region over the years.
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