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Research Newswire

NC State University Awarded BioMADE Funding to Advance U.S. Bioindustrial Manufacturing by Educating Future Workers

The research project — led by Gary Gilleskie, director of the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center — will focus on education and workforce development.

The production of cell phones, diapers, and all sorts of plastics and polyesters relies on chemicals such as acrylic or succinic acid. 

Bioindustrial technologies could help the U.S. domestically source these chemicals and others that are widely used to produce many goods Americans buy each day.

Bioindustrial manufacturing is rapidly growing within North Carolina — and with a new project funded by BioMADE, NC State will help train the future workers needed to help make that vision a reality.

BioMADE, which stands for the Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem, is a Department of Defense-sponsored Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

“Biomanufacturing uses living organisms or cells to produce products,” says Gary Gilleskie, the executive director of NC State’s Golden Leaf Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center.

Gilleskie serves as the principal investigator for “Educating the Current and Future Bioindustrial Workforce: Molecular Biology, Bioprocessing Fundamentals, and Responsible Innovation” — a two-year project that will ultimately lead to the launch of a comprehensive online course available to students and current professionals alike.

BTEC is working with NC State’s Biotechnology Program (BIT) and Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center to develop the course.

“BTEC can’t do this alone,” Gilleskie says. “And this will really be the first time that our three groups have come together as a team to work on a project — so we’re hoping that in addition to putting out a high-quality course that’s going to benefit people in the industry or those going into the industry, this will set the stage for future collaboration.”

To help students and workers develop the experience and expertise they need to be effective and successful in the workforce, the course will cover three aspects of bioindustrial manufacturing:

  • Core Competencies in Molecular Biotechnology: Led by BIT, this component of the course will focus on recombinant gene cloning and its downstream applications — and will use web-based augmented reality to provide the laboratory experience via remote learning.
  • Fundamentals of Bioindustrial Manufacturing: Led by BTEC, this component of the course will focus on bioindustrial product classes and uses, host systems, upstream and downstream processing, product testing, and more.
  • Training in the Nexus of Biotechnology and Society: Led by GES, this component of the course will focus on public engagement, responsible research and innovation, science communication, and more — to ensure learners understand the social context of biomanufacturing, ethical implications of biotechnologies, and strategies to engage the public to be responsive to public priorities.  

The project aims to “ensure that the current and future bioindustrial technology workforce understands the fundamentals of molecular biology and bioprocessing” — while being grounded in bioethical principles and recognizing the societal importance of responsible innovation. 

Key collaborators on the course include Robert Kelly, BIT director and the Alcoa Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Melissa Srougi, an assistant teaching professor in the BIT program and the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences; Katie Barnhill-Dilling, a senior research scholar at GES; and Jason Delborne, director of the Science, Technology and Society program and a professor at GES and in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources.

Gilleskie says they hope to launch the course by the end of 2023. The course will be open to the public and made available through BTEC’s existing catalog of professional development opportunities.

All course materials will be aligned with best practices for accessibility and inclusivity and include aspects of Universal Design for Learning

The Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) is a unique, cross-disciplinary instructional center that provides educational and training opportunities to develop skilled professionals for the biomanufacturing industry. It also provides bioprocess development and analytical services to a wide range of customers from academia and industry. Photo by Marc Hall

Gilleskie says that even though the process and methods are largely the same, this will be BTEC’s first foray into education and training focused on bioindustrial goods, as opposed to biopharmaceuticals.

Delborne says that this is a “fantastic opportunity for the GES Center to contribute to an educational mission even as it prepares to work closely with the recently announced Genetics and Genomics Academy at NC State.”

This project is one of 16 that BioMADE recently announced. Another education and workforce development project — “Nanobiotechnology to Inspire the Next Generation of the Skilled Biomanufacturing Workforce” — will be led by the UNC-Greensboro and partner with the Veteran’s Farm of North Carolina

“We’re extremely pleased to announce these projects, which represent all areas of our mission,” BioMADE CEO Douglas Friedman said in a release. “These cutting-edge projects will create new bio-based chemicals, demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of bioindustrial manufacturing, enhance the ability of the biomanufacturing community to work together, and train the workforce of the future.”

BioMADE, launched in 2021, is a member of Manufacturing USA — a “national network created to secure U.S. global leadership in advanced manufacturing through large-scale public-private collaboration on technology, supply chain, and education and workforce development.”

To learn more about BioMADE and the other projects, read this news release.