Mind the talent gap
An innovative new biologics facility aims to upskill the future workforce.
In a first for an Australian university, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has unveiled a new Biologics Innovation Facility, informally known as BIF, in a bid to drive the jobs of the future in an emerging industry.
The training and production facility has the potential to enable new biotech discoveries, such as cost effective drugs and innovative sustainable foods and nutraceuticals. It provides a unique opportunity to support Australia’s future biosecurity defense in response to pandemics and the need for alternative supply chains.
What are biologics?
A biologic drug is produced from living organisms or contains components of living organisms. They can be composed of sugars, proteins, nucleic acids or complex combinations of these substances, or may be living cells or tissues. Biologics have revolutionised the treatment of cancer and other diseases, including autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
But there is a downside. Biologics are much more expensive to produce than drugs made from chemicals. UTS’ Biologics Innovation Facility will help bring these costs down by producing small volumes of new technology-based biologics, establishing what works, and passing that knowledge on so full-scale production systems can be designed.
I am excited to see what can be achieved as biologic research begins to unlock some of the most complex healthcare issues facing our world.
Professor Attila Brungs
What else makes BIF special?
The 430 square metre underground facility houses a series of clean rooms and containment laboratories that will transform professional training in Good Manufacturing Practice, the essential industry standard for the sector.
UTS Dean of Science, Professor Dianne Jolley said the BIF is the “only South East Asian node to deliver training programs from the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT)”. NIBRT is a global Centre of Excellence based in Ireland and world leader in the field of biopharma training.
“Australia has a massive opportunity to lead in the development of the next generation of biotech and precision medicines. The pharma/bioprocessing industry needs trained workforce and upskilling programs to meet changing needs and demand for the future. The flexibility of the Biologics Innovation Facility enables UTS to offer that training and research development.”
Jobs of the future
UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said the Biologics Innovation Facility will help support the creation of jobs in highly skilled STEM-based industries.
“I expect this facility will be key to addressing local skills shortages and ensuring the brightest and most talented scientists and engineers stay locally, allowing Australia to capture a multibillion-dollar share of a rapidly expanding biologics market while also making real-world impact in the area of biologics,” Professor Brungs said.
“I am excited to see what can be achieved as biologic research begins to unlock some of the most complex healthcare issues facing our world.”
GE Healthcare Life Sciences CEO, Emmanuel Ligner said, “This facility is an ideal environment for both startups and established companies to scale and refine their processes.”
The Biologics Innovation Facility has secured $1.2 million from the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, in addition to initial seed funding of $750,000 from the NSW Boosting Business Innovation Program via the NSW Government.
NSW Minister for Jobs Stuart Ayres said the NSW Government was proud to back BIF.
“Our Boosting Business Innovation Program and Medtech Industry Development Strategy are connecting university and industry expertise to develop new products and services that can create jobs for the future, and to support skills development to train and grow our rapidly growing specialised medtech and biotech workforce,” Mr Ayres said.
The Biologics Innovation Facility
The biologics innovation facility will:
- Train laboratory and factory technicians in bioprocessing techniques, and their use in a GMP environment, to retain a future workforce for the growing number of biopharma players in Australia
- Offer NIBRT suite of courses, planned to be available from January 2020
- Offer pilot scale facilities and process development capacity to the Australian biotech community
- Consist of GE Healthcare KUBio GMP-compliant prefabricated biomanufacturing facilities – based on a 1 x 200L process to produce monoclonal antibodies and other recombinant products. The facility has the capability to use different mammalian expression platforms and has been future-proofed to accommodate an expansion to a 1000L process.
- Undertake ongoing research, underpinned by UTS Climate Change Cluster expertise, in the development of novel algae-based products
Find out more about partnering, collaborating or using the Biologics Innovation Facility