On Monday, October 17th, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton joined East Carolina University Chancellor Philip Rogers and other dignitaries for a recognition ceremony honoring Golden LEAF for its investment in the Eastern Region Pharma Center. The first floor of the Life Sciences and Biotechnology building has been named in recognition of the Golden LEAF Foundation’s $1.9 million investment in the regional, collaborative project to build the BioPharma workforce.
The ceremony featured members of both ECU’s and Golden LEAF’s leadership, officials with the BioPharma industry, community college partners, and bioprocess engineering concentration students. The Eastern Region Pharma Center is located in ECU’s new Life Sciences and Biotechnology building.
In February 2021, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1.9 million to ECU for the Eastern Region Pharma Center to support East Carolina University’s efforts to enhance its ability to serve students who wish to earn a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology degree “in place.”
Golden LEAF’s investment has helped create a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing training center that will grow employment opportunities for the citizens of North Carolina and improve the economy in the region.
“I want to thank the Golden LEAF Foundation for its long standing partnership with ECU to increase economic opportunity in eastern North Carolina,” said Chancellor Philip Rogers. “Pharmaceutical manufacturing is critical to our economy. Through working together, we can scale opportunities for our students and faculty, increase career options in the region, and meet the needs of our industry partners for growth and expansion.”
The Eastern Region Pharma Center is designed to teach advanced manufacturing techniques to students and current pharmaceutical employees and to meet the need for four-year graduate pharmaceutical employees in an area of eastern North Carolina known as the BioPharma Crescent. The 14 companies that currently make up the BioPharma Crescent employ thousands of employees.
“Thanks to Golden LEAF’s investment, this first floor will host the Manufacturing Capability and Cybersecurity Complex in 4,500 square feet of lab space,” said Chancellor Rogers. “It will be a hands-on, experiential education and training environment that will include teaching labs with new bioextraction and bioprocessing equipment and a pilot-scale continuous manufacturing line.”
While the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building is home to the center, the Eastern Region Pharma Center’s real value lies in the fact that ECU will be partnering with community colleges and industries.
“We will reach students in place so they can gain advanced skills without leaving their jobs, families and communities,” said Chancellor Rogers.
Dr. Loren Limberis, Director of the Easter Region Pharma Center, agrees that the partnership with the community colleges is key to reaching the workforce needed to fill the thousands of BioPharma positions.
“The community college partnerships are critical for our efforts in the Eastern Region Pharma Center to help provide awareness of the opportunities in the pharma industry and educational and training pathways that lead to engaging and enriching careers,” said Limberis. “The community colleges are embedded in the communities and counties that are part of the BioPharma Crescent which allows them to reach students in their home communities and provide direct access to our Pharma Pathways Program.”
Partnering community colleges include Pitt, Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, and Johnston community colleges.
Christina Weeks, Biotechnology Department Chair at Pitt Community College, is one of the partners working with ECU’s Eastern Region Pharma Center.
“We are working with ECU mostly on building awareness of the Biopharma industry, including both educational and career opportunities in our region,” said Weeks. “When we have an event here on campus — like the STEM Family night with Thermo Fisher — we had last Thursday, we invite ECU to attend. Likewise, when they have an event on their campus — like the PharmaFest next week — they invite our students to attend.”
ECU and Pitt Community College have three Articulation Agreements regarding the transfer of AAS Biotechnology Degree to ECU, including BS Biology, BA Biology, and BS Industrial Technology with Bioprocess Manufacturing concentration, said Weeks.
“This partnership is critical,” said Weeks. “We have to work together to ensure we are creating a proper pipeline and building awareness of opportunities for our students. We get more accomplished when we work together towards a common goal.”
The goal is to fill industry needs for qualified employees. Some of the partnering industries were represented at the ceremony and include: Thermo Fisher Scientific, Catalent, CMP Pharma, Merck, and Novo Nordisk.
To learn more about this regional, collaborative initiative, visit https://pharma.ecu.edu/.
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