A JMU professor, planning to advise a board studying Virginia’s
biotechnology future, foresees JMU’s becoming the state’s
top educator in the field. The board’s co-chair agrees.
who teaches biotechnology to integrated science and technology majors,
is expected to testify on research-to-business transitions and workforce
development to the advisory board for the Virginia Biotechnology Initiative,
says Brandon J. Price, state board co-chair.
There are no academic
programs that address workforce development in the bio-manufacturing
area. JMU can take the lead,” says McKown.
JMU is at the epicenter in developing qualified people who can work
in the biotechnology industry,” says Price, president of the Florida-
and Blacksburg-based Goodwin Biotechnology Inc. He calls JMU “second
to none in the commonwealth and maybe in the whole country” in
up the CISAT Biomanufacturing Laboratory with funding from Virginia’s
Manufacturing Innovation Center last fall. The laboratory is the first
of its kind in the state.
One aspect of
biotechnology is the manufacture of products from living organisms.
Current products are primarily pharmaceutical and secondarily agricultural.
Gov. Mark Warner
created the Virginia Biotechnology Initiative in June, charging its
board with making recommendations to enhance the state’s strength
in the industry. McKown addressed the board during statewide meetings
this summer. Their recommendations are due Nov. 15.
Price also chairs
the Virginia Biotechnology Association, an industry board which McKown
also serves. McKown notes biotechnology is one of the most popular concentrations
in the major. He describes the lab as “hands-on. Students see
how a manufacturing platform operates, know the technology behind it
and learn things like quality assurance and analytical instrumentation.”
including National Science Foundation research award winner Amy Goss,
have completed programs in the lab. Their work involved a class exercise
transferring fluorescence genes from jellyfish to bacteria; manufacturing
products for two biotechnology companies; and developing an agent to
treat dry eyes based on research at U.Va.
future may include training programs for high school and community college
students and an interdisciplinary biotechnology major, McKown says.
“We’ve tried for years to get a governor interested in biotechnology
and to get him to support it. Warner is the first to do so.”
In the last decade,
biotechnology supplied Virginia with $1.6 billion in new capital and
4,700 new jobs, Warner said in June. The board may recommend internship
incentives, legislation to increase ownership rights, and transference
of research and development tax credits, Price says.