Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SCC program delivers grads into biotech, pharm fields

SCC program delivers grads into biotech, pharm fields
By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Created:08/05/2005 12:10:09 AM PDT
For graduates looking for lucrative jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, Solano Community College's biotech manufacturing program is the magic pill to take.

The program is in such demand, the college has hired more teachers, so that as many as 48 students can enroll in classes and laboratories in the fall semester, said David Redfield, college dean of math and science.

Through the biotech manufacturing program, students get full view of the industry starting at the cellular level, then branching out to the business side of pharmaceuticals, and also government regulations on the massive drug industry.

Biotech is not as obscure as it sounds. Redfield said one of Solano's most prominent biotech industries is Anheuser-Busch, which uses various organisms to turn sugar into alcohol.

Jobs in the biotech industry, particularly in drug manufacturing, are in high demand, Redfield said. The fact that Solano County is home to biotech giants Genentech, Chiron and Alza, doesn't hurt graduates seeking work close to home.

"Most of them will have jobs even before they even get their certificates," Redfield said. "The real nice thing is that most of the companies will pay for the continued classes."

Jim DeKloe, director of the biotech program who is known as Mr. Biotech, said the usual student in the program is no kid, but is an average age of 35. Most students already have bachelor degrees in either genetics, biology or chemistry before enrolling in the program where they get more practical skills to enter the pharmaceutical market, he said.

Some graduates go on to Bayer, or BioMarin in Novato. Corporations in other parts of the country, such as Eli Lilly in Indianapolis often recruit Solano graduates, DeKloe said.

To earn a vocational certificate in biotech manufacturing, students must take four biotechnology courses, a basic chemistry course, and complete other prerequisites. In essence, students learn to take existing cells and grow them in vast quantities so that they can extract various elements and make drugs for the health care industry.

Triggered by Genentech setting up shop in Solano, the college's program began in 1997. The biotech giant in Vacaville has numerous drugs in the pipeline, and is continuously responding to demands for newer drugs.

DeKloe said the biotech courses are "designed so closely with industry input that (the program) ends up being exactly what you need to get in."

In layman's terms, Redfield said students learn how to grow cells in large quantities and how to extract from those cells particular molecules that are then used in different industries.

The first course, Principles of Biotechnology, is open to anyone and is taught on the Fairfield campus 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays starting Aug. 22, and in Vacaville on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. starting Aug. 25.

For more information, call Redfield at 864-7000, ext.110, or go to

- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at or call 553-6832.

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