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MCCC’s Camp Introduces Students to Biomanufacturing Careers

Tuesday, July 20, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Blue Bell, Pa.- July 20, 2010— During Montgomery County Community College’s week-long Biomanufacturing Summer Camp, June 21-25, local high school students explored biotechnology and its use in manufacturing and entrepreneurial opportunities.


The camp, sponsored by Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs®, the foundation of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, is designed to inspire future biologists, inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs, and many campers found the experience to be motivational.


"This was a good way to test the water,” said 16-year-old Samantha Schafer, who is contemplating a career in biomedical engineering.


Starting with an overview of the laboratory, goals and safety guidelines, the 18 students proceeded to create a recombinant protein using biotechnology. Specifically, they inserted a jellyfish gene into bacteria.  This enabled the bacteria to produce a protein typically produced by the jellyfish.


The students then extracted and purified the protein using a series of sophisticated laboratory techniques, one of which is a proprietary technique developed previously by Biotechnology Assistant Professor Kevin Lampe and his Biotechnology students. 


In addition to the laboratory work, students were required to do a research project about subjects of their choice, create posters and then share their results with the class during presentations at the conclusion of the week. For example, Kaley Moyer, 16, who wants to be a pediatrician, selected and researched bioremediation--the use of organisms to breakdown and remove toxic chemicals in the environment.


The College has offered this camp for the past nine years. Assistant Professor Lampe, together with Grant Project Managers, Sheila Byrne and Margaret Bryans, conducted the program.


Two Montgomery County Community College graduates Liz Neuman and Kristin Mindock, as well as student Lukas Ochiene, assisted with the camp. Neuman plans to get her bachelor’s degree in microbiology biotechnology, and Mindock is seeking a job in the biotechnology field.


"The camp provides students with a sample of the biomanufacturing process,” Lampe said. "It’s a high-caliber experience for high school students to be able to use this technology and equipment, and it’s a lot of fun working in a laboratory figuring things out.”


"It is definitely interesting and a hot field to go into,” said Matt Schulman, 16, who attends Wissahickon High School. "I tried the camp to see if I would like it, and now I’m considering a career in the medical field or in research.”


During the week, a guest speaker Richard P. Schwarz, Jr., Ph.D., President of CV Ventures LLC, Blue Bell, spoke about his business, which develops innovative therapeutic strategies for cardiovascular diseases, and how to get started as an entrepreneur in this field.


In addition to the laboratory and classroom time, students toured a local biomanufacturing operation—the Small Scale Pilot Plant in Springhouse, Pa., of the Pharmaceutical Development & Manufacturing Sciences group of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, formerly known as Centocor Research & Development.


Dressed in protective gowns and hats, the students observed the drug manufacturing process from the beginning stage of vial thaw and preculture through bioreactor operations and finishing with several purification steps and support areas.


"Scaling up any process from bench top (lab) scale, to full-scale commercial production is a challenging but rewarding job, and hopefully the tour helped the students see their own very similar small-scale experiments from another perspective, noting similarities and differences along the way,” said John Drugan, associate technician who, along with fellow employees Kristen Rombola, Eric Swanberg, Chad Springer and Josh Young, guided the students through the facility.


"We really enjoy getting to teach and talk with the kids, as they have an unparalleled amount of energy that helps rekindle our own spirits,” Drugan said. "We also realize they are the future of our industry. For them to get a head-start is crucial in such a dynamic scientific field. Speed to market is key with biologics, and getting a quality education and forming quality relationships will position the students for success in entering the field.”


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