Thomas Jefferson University Receives Multimillion-Dollar Grant to Expand Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) Facilities, Workforce Training in Biopharma, Cell & Gene Therapy and Vaccines

Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) has received a $2 million grant through the commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) to add nearly 40,000 square feet of additional academic and training space at its Lower Gwynedd (Montgomery County) training and education facility.

The December award—announced by State Sen. Maria Collett—was matched and exceeded by the Thomas Jefferson University’s capital management committee after a recent presentation demonstrating the industry-driven demand to expand JIB’s cell and gene therapy and advanced vaccines initiatives.

“The Jefferson Institute [for Bioprocessing] is on the cutting edge of developing advanced manufacturing technologies for next-generation biologics, including vaccines and cell and gene therapies. I have been impressed by their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as workforce development, working with local community colleges and employers to prepare students and professionals for the skills they need for the jobs of the future,” said Senator Collett (D-12 Montgomery/Bucks) in a press release. “Now more than ever, we need to support the teachers and students in these important fields.”

“This is the future. Cell and gene therapy and advanced vaccines are among the fastest growing areas in biopharmaceuticals,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. “The greater Philadelphia region is major national hub for this industry and Jefferson is a leader in training and education in bioprocessing.” 

“These are the engineering foundations for the translation of basic discoveries into commercial outcomes,” added Dr. Mark Tykocinski, Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs and Provost, Thomas Jefferson University. “The RACP grant will be used specifically to increase Jefferson’s bioprocessing training and education at the frontiers of 21st century biologics, now extending to cell and gene therapy and the new vaccines.”

Dr. Parviz Shamlou, Vice President, and JIB’s Executive Director, says that the awards will also provide the foundation for Thomas Jefferson University to continue training students and industry professionals in critically advancing the production of vaccines like those being used right now in the fight against COVID-19.

“When I talk with colleagues in the industry about what it will look like post-COVID, everyone agrees that this type of advanced vaccine manufacturing will be a trillion-dollar industry. Where are the people who are going to run this? That’s where we come in,” Dr. Shamlou says of the importance of training and education. “This is a huge opportunity, and this investment will transform the greater Philadelphia area into the ‘Genome Valley.”

The expansion will help position Jefferson to train the workforce needed to meet the demands in a rapidly accelerating field. The grant will also enable continued outreach to, and offer great opportunities for, Black and under-represented communities in biopharma, cell and gene therapy, and advanced vaccines.

“This is an ongoing commitment, currently demonstrated by the Master’s program cohort, where seven of 11 students are people of color,” said Kathy Gallagher, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Thomas Jefferson University. “JIB works closely with the industry to effectively train and increase proficiencies in a sector with high demand for a skilled workforce.”

With the mission of providing state-of-the-art education and training in the fast-emerging field of biopharmaceutical processing, JIB formally opened its doors in 2019 and is the first—and only—specialized education and training institute for biopharmaceutical processing in North America that uses industry standard, fully flexible ready-to-use technologies, and operations from frozen ampule to formulated drug for training. JIB provides a broad-range of hands-on, customized trainings in commercial single-use processing equipment to industry professionals through workshops and certificates, and hands-on education of new bioprocessing engineers at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

“In a few short years, JIB has become a national leader in training, education and workforce development in biopharmaceutical process engineering,” said Dr. Ron Kander, Dean, Kanbar College of Design, Engineering & Commerce and Jefferson’s Associate Provost for Applied Research. “This expansion will not only increase the educational opportunities for our students, but will also attract even more biopharmaceutical companies to the Philadelphia region. I am so proud to see the success of JIB being recognized and rewarded by the commonwealth and the university.”

The Commonwealth grant program is administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.