Texas A&M Biocorridor offers veterans an opportunity to continue serving and protecting the nation

March 26, 2015

Bryan-College Station has long been known for its deep-seated roots in military tradition, and more recently the area has earned a reputation as the epicenter of Texas’ emerging biotechnology industry. Now through a specialized training program aimed at transitioning veterans into the skilled biotechnology workforce, Texas A&M is bringing together these two seemingly disparate points of distinction to advance the collaborative vision of academic, community, and industry partners.

NCTM workforce training program

Workforce development is essential for continued growth of the Texas A&M Biocorridor. The National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing is providing a specialized training program to transition veterans into the skilled biotechnology workforce.

“This region presents a unique opportunity borne from an area rich with leading scientific innovators in combination with an outstanding workforce pool comprised of Texas A&M graduates and veterans drawn to the area’s reputation as a military friendly community with an outstanding quality of life,” said Brett Giroir, M.D., CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center.

The most significant accelerator of the Texas A&M Biocorridor – a sector of land anchored by the Texas A&M Health Science Center Bryan campus – is the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM), one of only three such national biosecurity centers in the United States and the only one led by an academic institution. Designed to enhance the nation’s preparedness and response against emerging infectious diseases, the center is expected to have a $42 billion impact on the State of Texas and will lead to the creation of an estimated 6,000 jobs over its 25-year term.

A major component in the CIADM is the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM), which is not only a first-in-class, flexible biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility, but also headquarters for a set of distinctive workforce training programs funded by the CIADM and implemented by multiple A&M System entities. To ensure biotechnology training that is second to none, the NCTM provides some of the most interactive and realistic pharmaceutical manufacturing training environments available anywhere, combined with highly tailorable on-line and in-person courses.

In May 2015, the NCTM will graduate its first cohort of a dozen military veterans from the Military Veterans Manufacturing Vaccines (MVMV) training program, which was made possible by a Wagner-Peyser grant from the Office of the Governor.

“Through the new military workforce training program, NCTM is building upon veterans’ strong sense of responsibility, professionalism and dedication to accomplishing a mission, as well as their ability to work in challenging and demanding environments – all characteristics that will make them ideal additions to the biotech industry,” said Giroir, who chairs a federally enacted Blue Ribbon Panel recently appointed to ensure that Veterans Affairs medical facilities are optimized to deliver quality health care to U.S. veterans. “This program allows us to come full circle by training former service men and women to protect our country in a new way as biomanufacturing technicians and process development and quality specialists in facilities that are the nation’s first line of defense from biothreats.”

Veterans will complete NCTM’s Biomanufacturing Technical Certification (BTC), a blended learning program comprised of online curricula followed by four weeks of intensive hands-on technical training in upstream and downstream manufacturing processes, sterile environment protocol, bioprocess equipment operations, quality unit operations, documentation practices, and standard operating most common in the pharmaceutical industry.

In late 2015 when the CIADM’s next major milestone is complete – an approximately 100,000 square foot influenza-vaccine manufacturing facility that will be able to supply 50 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine within four months of an outbreak – the ready-made workforce pipeline will offer a win-win for the local and statewide economy. In the meantime, the state’s continued growth in the biotechnology sector provides a prime opportunity for graduates of NCTM’s latest program to continue their service in the Lone Star State, and ideally in or near the Brazos Valley.

“We’d obviously like to have many of the graduates of NCTM’s workforce training programs working at Texas facilities, but we know that this training is so specialized and in demand at pharmaceutical companies around the world that they will be marketable across the nation,” Giroir said. “This workforce program is essential to continuing the growth of new biotechnology companies and relocation of existing companies to the area, which make the job and economic outlook of the Texas A&M Biocorridor and Bryan-College Station extremely bright for employers and employees, alike.”

— Holly Shive

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