Biotech Boot Camp provides intensive training to help fill shortage in life sciences employees

URI Pharmaceutical Development Institute’s Training provides hands-on, immersive experience in the world of biotechnology

KINGSTON, R.I. — Sept. 14, 2023 — The University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy and the Pharmaceutical Development Institute have partnered with RI Bio, Skills for Rhode Island’s Future, and the state Department of Labor and Training to host a “Biotech Boot Camp,” a two-week intensive program to provide the in-depth, hands-on training biotechnology and biopharmaceutical firms are looking for in potential employees.

Beginning Sept. 18, the PDI welcomes 15 Rhode Island residents interested in a career in the ever-expanding biotech industry to its labs in Avedisian Hall on the Kingston campus. Trainees, who were selected through an interview and evaluation process after applying, are trained in aseptic techniques, clean-room gowning, document control, biopharmaceutical manufacturing concepts, quality control systems, measurement and data collection, troubleshooting, and report writing, among other skills.   

“Students will have the chance to learn face-to-face, ask questions, and practice skills hands-on with our industry professionals in our state-of-the-art laboratory setting over the 10-day boot camp,” said Kristen Riley, education & training coordinator at the institute. “The PDI is committed to enhancing and expanding the capacity and workforce development of pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms by training them in our world-class facility.”

The overall goal of the DLT-funded program is to help fill a shortfall in skilled labor for life sciences firms around the state and the region. The intensive training by the PDI’s and College of Pharmacy’s experienced educators will provide the necessary skills and foundational knowledge needed to gain access into entry-level jobs within the life sciences industry. 

“Rhode Island’s life sciences companies tell me a lack of trained talent is their number one challenge,” said Carol Malysz, RI Bio executive director. “But what’s truly unique is the strategic partnership with area life sciences companies and the amount of interest they have expressed in hiring our graduates. Employers will gain a much-needed, skilled workforce; graduates will learn sought-after skills and have interview opportunities to land new, well-paying jobs; and both will lead to a more sustainable workforce and expanded job growth in the state.”   

In addition to gaining marketable skills in biotechnology, boot camp graduates will have an opportunity to participate in a job fair with interested companies, including East Side Clinical Laboratory, Brown Urology, Denison Pharmaceuticals, RISE/Thielsch Engineering, Cargill, and others. Graduates will also have access to resumé writing and interview preparation workshops to secure entry-level positions in biotech, pharmaceutical and healthcare.   

The boot camp comes on the heels of a $1.2 million federal grant the PDI received to strengthen teaching and training programs like the Biotech Boot Camp to increase innovation opportunities for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical ventures in Rhode Island. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed recently announced the grant and toured the PDI’s state-of-the-art facilities, which include a 7,000 square-foot clean manufacturing lab, divided into multiple process suites, and a 1,500 square-foot Analytical and Stability Testing Laboratory.

The facility and equipment upgrades afforded by the grant allow the Institute to strengthen its world-class teaching and training capacity, and provide programs like the Biotech Boot Camp, according to Paul Larrat, dean of the URI College of Pharmacy.

“Advanced training is critical for Rhode Island’s contribution to the biotech corridor,” Larrat said. “This helps us prepare workers for high-tech and high-paying jobs. It allows us to continue the University’s and the College of Pharmacy’s efforts in pharmaceutical development, and helps develop better therapies for the patients we all ultimately serve.”