Hands-on training in cutting-edge techniques, technologies and equipment opens new career paths.

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A skills gap in the medical workforce is creating a need for immuno-biotechnology training in the fast-growing field of biotechnology.

In the Puget Sound region, demand for life science technicians grew 9 percent between 2007 and 2014, a trend that is likely to continue. However, jobs in immuno-biotechnology require specialized expertise that is not widely available for secondary and college students. Across the nation, it is difficult to find instructional materials organized around developing immune system products.

Careers in immuno-biotechnology require practical, hands-on training in cutting-edge techniques, technologies and equipment. This includes preparation for work in molecular biology, recombinant DNA, immunology, protein purification and tissue culture, and other technical fields. It’s also important to establish a firm foundation in a variety of math and science disciplines including algebra, statistics, chemistry, biology, microbiology and computer science.

Immuno-biotechnology encompasses two areas vital to modern medicine: developing drug and diagnostic methods that relate to the immune system and manufacturing therapeutic drugs derived from the immune system. The demand for specialized immune system proteins, such as antibodies in bio manufacturing and cancer biology, is increasing at a rapid pace.

“The Puget Sound region is well-known as a biotechnology and biomedical research hub,” says Dr. Dina Kovarik, Chair of the Biotechnology Lab Specialist program at Shoreline Community College. “In recent years, local companies and research institutions have made great strides in developing and adapting the power of the immune system to fight diseases like cancer and autoimmunity.”

The gap between evolving industry needs and existing training means that even college graduates and current industry workers must seek additional training or education in immuno-biotechnology to get and succeed in these jobs.

“I was hired at a biotech company before I even graduated from the Shoreline Community College biotech program, something I had been trying unsuccessfully to do with just my microbiology degree for over five years,” says Jenna Gravley, Evaluation Project Manager, HIV Vaccine Trials Network at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Shoreline Community College is currently the only two-year Washington community or technical college that offers a biotechnology program. The college will develop five new courses (including Case Studies in Drug Development, Cancer Biology, Quality Systems, and Advanced Bioinformatics) that will serve as elective courses for students in Shoreline’s biotechnology degree and certificate programs, and build a foundation for a future certificate in immuno-biotechnology.

Shoreline will pioneer these new courses and share materials for teaching courses related to immuno-biotechnology through a $572,070 National Science Foundation grant. The funding will establish portable courses for use by two-year colleges and develop instructional kits that will be on loan for local high school biology teachers.

Shoreline currently adapts college-level biotechnology lessons for high school students participating in their Project Biotech summer camps. This grant will increase access to these and newly developed immuno-biotechnology lessons through the high school kit loan program.

Success in an ever-evolving field like biotechnology requires attention to professional growth and education. Learning the basics and landing a job is just the first step. It also requires staying up-to-date by subscribing to industry publications, becoming active in industry associations and developing a network of colleagues.

Learn more at www.shoreline.edu/biotechnology