VA Community College to help biotech economic development with link to global biotech training firm

09/14/05

Unique partnership will bring scientists, engineers from around the world to Hampton Roads

NORFOLK, Va. (Sept. 14, 2005) The Williamsburg BioProcessing Foundation (WilBio) will base its new WilBio Institute for BioProcess Technology at Tidewater Community College, announces WilBio Chairman Keith Carson and TCC President Deborah M. DiCroce.

"There is nothing like this partnership anywhere in Virginia, and possibly in the U.S.," Carson says. "It has great potential for developing Hampton Roads as a source of high-tech training and workforce development."

"TCC has identified biotechnology as an important industry with unmet education needs in the region," says President DiCroce. "WilBio's presence at TCC, and their generous gift of equipment, will benefit our faculty and students as they witness crucial training for scientists around the world."

When WilBio Institute's inaugural training course, Antibody Purification, takes place Oct. 20-22, it will be housed in a laboratory and classroom on TCC's downtown Norfolk Campus. "Students are coming from all over the U.S. and Canada," Carson explains. "At future courses we expect students from Asia and Europe." Another WilBio course is set for April 6-8, 2006, at TCC. The October course is sold out.

TCC faculty and students will be able to use the equipment and technology from these courses as the college considers its own training program in biotechnology. TCC already uses biotechnology procedures, such as DNA gel electrophoresis, in science classes and labs. "Working with WilBio and witnessing their training will give students a larger window into the field," says Quintin Bullock, TCC Norfolk Campus provost.

A research-intensive industry, biotechnology employs cellular and biomolecular processes to solve problems or make products. Since the early 1990s, the biotechnology industry has seen an explosion of growth, especially in agriculture, energy, environmental science, health care and manufacturing. According to the national Biotechnology Industry Organization, U.S. health-care biotech revenues increased from $8 billion in 1992 to $39 billion in 2003.

In 2004, the Hampton Roads Research Partnership (HRRP) chose bioscience as one of four technology clusters to promote business and economic development. "It is certainly our hope that the biotech industry grows in Hampton Roads," adds H. Lee Beach Jr., HRRP's executive director. "Partnerships such as WilBio and TCC will go a long way toward making that happen."

"This is an extremely positive partnership that will help provide a skilled workforce to the region's biotech industry," asserts William Wasilenko, dean of research at Eastern Virginia Medical School. "And it complements the growing variety of biotech opportunities in Virginia."

He adds, "This will be good for the Hampton Roads economy. With time, it could serve as a magnet for recruiting biotech companies to the region."

Notably, the courses offered by WilBio on TCC's Norfolk Campus will complement Norfolk's commitment to the biotechnology industry, best evidenced through a 22,000-square-foot biotechnology incubator recently built by the city.

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