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Workshop Explores Booming Biopharmaceutical Industry

Campus Event Raises Visibility of UMass Lowell

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The Biopharmaceutical Summit was held March 9 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center in downtown Lowell.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

According to IndustryWeek, in 2010, “America’s biopharmaceutical research companies invested a record $67.4 billion in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines.”

Biopharmaceuticals are medical drugs manufactured using biotechnology methods, that is, the products are derived from biological sources, usually involving live organisms or their active components. They include all recombinant proteins, monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, blood/plasma-derived products, nonrecombinant culture-derived proteins, cultured cells and tissues. 

To discuss the most relevant challenges facing today’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing, leaders and experts from academia, industry and government gathered at UMass Lowell for the Biopharmaceutical Summit on March 9.

More than 150 professionals from 60 organizations across the country participated in the event, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and major biopharmaceutical firms such as Biogen Idec, Genzyme, Pfizer, Momenta, Millipore, GE and SAFC.

“This was the first New England regional event in which academic researchers, biopharmaceutical scientists and engineers, technology/system developers, raw material suppliers and regulating agencies got together to address how to overcome hurdles and challenges and drive innovation in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as share success stories and new breakthroughs,” says chemical engineering Asst. Prof. Seongkyu Yoon.

“It was the first such event managed by UMass Lowell and it increased the visibility and awareness of research at the University,” he says. “It also provided a great opportunity to network with industry professionals and learn about groundbreaking research in genomics.”

Yoon is head of the Biopharmaceutical Process and Quality Consortium (BPQC), an interdisciplinary and multi-university research collaboration based at the Massachusetts BioManufacturing Center at UMass Lowell, which hosted the workshop.

The program included 20 invited speakers and panelists as well as 22 posters by BPQC graduate students and researchers. In addition to challenges in biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing, other topics that were taken up included developing and implementing innovative technologies to overcome these hurdles and developing advanced, next-generation biopharmaceutical processes.

“We plan to host the workshop twice a year,” says Yoon. “Our aim is to develop more industry-focused research and education programs as well as increase collaboration with other academic institutions in the New England region such as MIT, Worcester Polytechnic, Northeastern and the UMass campuses.” Check out a photo gallery from the day's event.

For more information, go to the BPQC website.