Lone Star College expands Biotechnology Institute to meet workforce needs

LSC & Biotech 2024
Anitha Iyer, LSC-Montgomery biology and biotechnology professor, works under a laminar flow hood that creates a sterile environment for mammalian cell culture.

Lone Star College invested an additional $500,000 into the Biotechnology Institute and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program at LSC-Montgomery to purchase state-of-the-art equipment to train students in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical manufacturing fields.

“Lone Star College-Montgomery remains one of the premiere institutions in the greater Houston area poised to train the next generation of biotechnology employees to fill the anticipated 10,000 open positions each year over the next decade,” said Mischelle Hopper, Ph.D., LSC-Montgomery dean, Natural Sciences and Health. “The Lone Star College-Montgomery Biotechnology Institute and AAS program will help meet these growing needs by training students to be competent laboratory technicians in the life science and chemical technology industries.”

LSC-Montgomery’s new biotechnology equipment will give students a hands-on experience of the various labs and projects they can expect to encounter once they enter the workforce.

  1. Flow Cytometer: a machine that detects and analyzes various chemical and physical properties of a population of cells or particles.
  2. Cleanroom: a controlled environment that minimizes contamination and helps maintain sterile conditions.
  3. Bioprinter: a device used in cancer, stem cell and many other areas of research that can print biological materials, including living cells, in precise, high-resolution patterns that mimic three-dimensional architectures typically found in human tissues. One day, bioprinters may even play a role in printing organs for transplant patients.
  4. Wave Bioreactor: an instrument that helps produce large quantities of cells grown in suspension typically used in cell, gene and stem cell therapy and therapeutic protein production.

“Biopharmaceutical manufacturing is experiencing tremendous growth in recent years because of the advances in gene and cellular therapies and numerous innovations in therapeutic protein and mRNA vaccine development,” said Daniel Kainer, Ph.D., LSC-Montgomery director, Biotechnology Institute. “The new equipment will help to ensure the future workforce will have the technical knowledge and expertise to help create cures, treatments and other solutions that will benefit the public for years to come.”

The life science industry generates billions of dollars in revenue, employing over 100,000 workers in Texas. The Woodlands Innovation District plans to expand the biotechnology footprint in the Houston area by offering biomanufacturing companies premium land across 80 acres to build state-of-the-art facilities. LSC-Montgomery is increasing offerings through the Biotechnology Institute to meet this demand and ensure trained professionals are ready to take the industry to the next level.

“The biotechnology industry is filled with companies in Houston and beyond that engage in a wide variety of technological innovations that have a positive impact on numerous challenges facing humanity,” said Kainer. “Technicians are the lifeblood of this industry and are in extremely high demand. Our biotechnology graduates find themselves in advantageous employment positions that offer excellent prospects and livable wages.”

The Biotechnology Institute at LSC-Montgomery opened in 2001 to support the biotechnology industry in The Woodlands and the greater Houston area, recruit local high school students for the workforce program and create shorter training opportunities that pair with the college’s associate of applied science (AAS) degree in Biotechnology and advanced technical certificate. Graduates like Paola Olivo are trained in several sectors, including pharmaceutical, cell biology, agriculture, biofuels, microbiology and molecular diagnostics.

“The Lone Star College-Montgomery Biotechnology Institute is a rigorous program that prepared me to enroll in the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center School of Health Professions (MDACCSHP),” said Olivo. “I was able to step into many of M.D. Anderson’s courses easily with the great foundation I received at Lone Star College, allowing me to focus on other unfamiliar areas.”

Olivo is a medical technologist in the Molecular Oncology Laboratory under the Genomic Medicine Pathology Department at Texas Children’s Hospital. She runs diagnostic assays for leukemia and point mutations to help doctors prescribe the right treatment choices for patients. Olivo earned an AAS degree in Biotechnology from LSC-Montgomery in 2018, a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Genetic Technology from MDACCSHP in 2020 and is pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical informatics.

“I don’t see patients in the laboratory, but I know their blood, bone marrow and tissue tumor samples are precious and how I handle, process and run those tests is crucial,” said Olivo. “Lone Star College’s biotechnology program taught me troubleshooting, problem-solving, maturity and accountability skills, leading me to the level of professionalism I strive to be.”

The full LSC AAS degree in Biotechnology is offered at LSC-Montgomery with LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Tomball and LSC-Online offering some courses. This fall, the program will start a new degree plan that includes a campus-based capstone experience with hands-on research and manufacturing projects. Learn more at LoneStar.edu/Biotechnology-AAS.

Lone Star College enrolls over 80,000 students each semester providing high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Mario K. Castillo, J.D., serves as Chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and has been named a 2023 Great Colleges to Work For® institution by the Chronicle of Higher Education. LSC consists of eight colleges, seven centers, eight Workforce Centers of Excellence and Lone Star Corporate College. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.

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