Bringing up Biotechies: New course will introduce students to biopharma
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Bringing up Biotechies: New course will introduce students to biopharma

28 Sep 2017

There are plenty of initiatives for young people to introduce themselves to tech, but what about the biopharma sector?

Biotech Week

Biotech and biopharma are extremely vibrant at the moment and there are plenty of career opportunities for anyone with a passion for these industries.

A popular misconception, though, is the level of education you need to even start a career in the sector. In reality, these options are not only available for PhD students. Many biotech and pharma giants have entry-level positions and training courses.

But, while there are plenty of initiatives for the younger generation, encouraging them to get to grips with code and learn about the world of technology, the biotech and biopharma industries can often be forgotten about.

Sean Preston is a support scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). However, he’s also a member of Citywise Education, an organisation based in Jobstown that provides young people with after-school support through a wide range of activities.

Preston is currently spearheading a new programme for young people to show them the world of biopharmaceuticals. “We have a very successful STEM programme in Citywise and we’re actually in the process of expanding it,” said Preston.

“I have been in biopharmaceuticals working with BMS for the last two years and I would have seen the major advantages within the biopharma sector for entry-level students all the way up to PhD.”

Bring in the Biotechies

Knowing that Citywise was looking to expand its STEM offering to young people, Preston put forward the idea of ‘Biotechies’, a course aimed at transition-year students.

BMS and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) are supporting the course, which is aiming to pilot in October.

“The biopharmaceutical industry is relatively new here in Ireland, so a lot of these students wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go into the world of biopharmaceuticals and they wouldn’t really know much about it,” he said.

Preston said the idea behind the course is to raise awareness of the industry so that it’s on students’ radars when it comes to making their CAO choices.

The course itself will cover various aspects of the biopharmaceutical process, including warehousing, manufacturing and where the products go after they leave the site.

Preston also said he wants the programme to show the students that these medicines save lives. “BMS would be very focused on its patients and that’s another aspect that I wanted to try and build into this course,” he said.

“These are lifesaving medicines, they’re the good that’s coming out of working in an industry like biopharmaceuticals.”

A winning collaboration

Preston said that Citywise tries to make sure it is educating young people in fun and interesting ways outside of a classroom dynamic. This involves tying in the knowledge that Citywise already has, with industry knowledge from companies such as BMS and training knowledge from NIBRT.

“NIBRT has been instrumental in this; it has given us a lot of time as we try to build a fun and interactive course,” he said. “We have a real wealth of knowledge there and I think it’s going to be a very good collaboration.”

Preston also said that while they’re still in the process of building the course, visits to sites such as NIBRT and BMS are on the cards. In addition, he’s hoping to get a tour of Micro Hydraulics, which is also partnering with Citywise on the course.

How to be a Biotechie

Another aim of the Biotechies course is to show young people that there are many avenues into the industry, even at entry level.

“You can go in at a very basic level,” said Preston. “I really want to stress that there’s really room for everyone in the industry and it’s such a good industry at the moment.”

The course is aiming to run after school for four weeks, starting at the end of October. There will be 20 places, evenly split for boys and girls. “That’s just for the pilot course; going forward, we hope to have separate courses for boys and girls of about 20 each,” said Preston.

While Citywise’s focus is about bringing education to disadvantaged areas, courses such as Biotechies are for anyone who is interested, provided you are a Citywise member.

Preston is also hoping for companies and people from industry to become involved and help with the programme itself.

For anyone interested in finding out more information on the Biotechies course, they can contact Preston here.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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