GE Healthcare (GEHC) and Ireland’s National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) are partnering to deliver educational training programs focused on biopharmaceutical and cell therapy development and manufacturing, building on a two-year-old collaboration.

GE Healthcare—the $19.8 billion-a-year healthcare business of GE—has agreed with NIBRT to share programs that include GEHC’s Fast Trak training and education curriculum, which includes a cell therapy course focused on the processes and systems used in various workflows. The initial programs will be delivered within NIBRT through Fast Trak, starting with a three-day cell therapy training course set to launch in January.

GEHC and NIBRT will also co-develop a new curriculum designed to help professionals gain expertise in single-use bioprocessing. GEHC and NIBRT said their co-developed curriculum will include training in single-use applications, as well as cell therapy technology, process efficiency strategies, process development methodologies, and chromatography proficiency.

The partners said they aim to help the global biomanufacturing industry develop talent capable of adapting to changes in technologies and production modalities.

“We are seeing a talent gap not only in emerging countries, but also in mature established countries, where there is a lot of biopharma activity going on,” Umay Saplakoglu, General Manager Fast Trak, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, told GEN. “One of the reasons that talent still is a problem is because of the new biomanufacturing modalities showing up everywhere in the world, as well as not enough people still in the industry globally available for the demand that we have today.

“Developing talent is critical. And with this collaboration, hopefully, because we will have a global footprint together, and very complementary course curriculums, we will be able to address the challenge in a very good way,” Saplakoglu added.

Killian O’Driscoll, Director of Projects, NIBRT, said the partners envision offering as many as three or four courses during the first half of 2020, assessing market demand, then responding to that accordingly.

“Our plan is to work with GE so we can deliver courses focused on gene therapy manufacturing, and viral vector production also,” O’Driscoll said. “What we’re seeing is very strong interest in new complex types of therapeutics, advanced therapy medicinal products.”

As these types of products that are being manufactured begin to get more diverse and complex, O’Driscoll said, that change needs to be reflected in the types of training programs that NIBRT provides.

NIBRT assesses industry needs through an annual survey of as many as 200 global leaders in biopharma manufacturing. A key concern of the executives, O’Driscoll said, is finding talent with the skills needed to step up cell and gene therapy manufacturing.

“We anticipate that there is strong demand both for cell and gene therapy. We can just see that from the significant investment that has been put into the space, the range of products that are getting licensed. And we’re beginning to see significant investment in manufacturing,” O’Driscoll noted, citing as one example Pfizer’s $500 million expansion of its gene therapy manufacturing facility in Sanford, NC.

“These very much target jobs within biopharma manufacturing, and it’s all particular functions within that. SO, it could be people in QA-QC roles, manufacturing roles, operators, technicians, manufacturing technology, so all aspects of biopharma manufacturing,” O’Driscoll said.

Saplakoglu said the trainees taking GEHC-NIBRT courses “will be covering a big range from operators to process development scientists to anybody that will work in manufacturing.”

That includes non-scientist executives with administrative responsibilities at biomanufacturing concerns, who need to master the basics of biotechnology, Saplakoglu added.

Courses will be offered at GEHC Fast Trak locations, NIBRT’s facility in Dublin, and the Jefferson Institute of Bioprocessing (JIB) in Philadelphia, which opened in June at Spring House Innovation Park in Lower Gwynedd, PA. JIB professionals are expected to work with NIBRT and GEHC in the development of training.

“We look forward to developing new courses with them, to involving them with our GE discussions, so that the same high-quality training solutions that we provide here can also be provided on the East Coast of the U.S.,” O’Driscoll said.

NIBRT’s Dublin facility trains about 4500 people each year: “it’s about a 50-50 split between training people who are in the industry, and then training people who are in education.” O’Driscoll estimated that anywhere from 1500 to 2000 of them are trainees at NIBRT’s GE Single Use Center of Excellence

GEHC has Fast Trak centers in South Korea, the U.S., Sweden, India, and China and satellite Fast Trak Centers in Turkey, Japan and Singapore. According to GE Healthcare, the centers are equipped with the latest technologies for bioprocessing in an environment and at a scale that closely replicates the real-life industrial setting.

NIBRT opened its Dublin facility in 2011, with biomanufacturing training based on stainless steel bioreactors. The change within the industry since then to single-use systems prompted GEHC to launch its first partnership with NIBRT in 2017. The partners agreed to establish a single-use training Center of Excellence at NIBRT’s Dublin facility, with GEHC agreeing to provide physical infrastructure.

“That was the beginning of a very fruitful partnership, which we’re taking to another level,” Saplakoglu said.

The new collaboration with NIBRT is one of several specialized training initiatives for GEHC.

In July, the company joined with University of Technology Sydney to announce the opening of the Biologicals Innovation Facility (BIF), which incorporates a GE Healthcare FlexFactory™ platform equipped to facilitate good manufacturing process (“GMP Lite”) in an environment designed for rapid cycling and iteration of projects. According to GE, the facility is intended to train technicians in new processes that accelerate the delivery of medicines to market, and give Australian biotech businesses access to a clean-room and laboratory environment that supports the in-country development of their innovations.

Last year, GEHC partnered with the government of Sweden to open a SEK 145 million (approximately $14.6 million) center in Uppsala that focuses on advancing manufacturing capabilities and the commercialization of new technologies in life sciences.

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