Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) has received $1.5 million from Amgen, one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies, to start a two-year master’s degree program that responds to the tremendous progress in genetic medicine and growing demand for professionals trained in both genetics and counseling.
The KGI Master of Science in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program is expected to enroll its first students in the 2018–2019 academic year.
Believed to be the only master’s degree of its kind in the United States housed within a school of pharmacy, the KGI program will become one of 34 nationally and only the fourth in California. Unlike existing programs, which average eight students in size, the KGI M.S. in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling is expected to enroll at least 24 students, expanding educational opportunities for qualified applicants. This larger number is made possible by the Amgen gift as well as KGI’s extensive network of industry and healthcare partners providing students with greater access to clinical rotations and training in other settings, including genetic testing service and bioscience companies.
The KGI program will also be distinguished by a curriculum that incorporates study of drug and diagnostic development, data analytics and pharmacogenetics—the genetic basis of variability in drug response—in addition to topics such as the principles of human genetics, human developmental biology, and medical communication. The program will feature KGI’s characteristic hands-on, team-based approach to learning; clinical rotations at leading medical centers in California and elsewhere in the country; and an independent research thesis guided by advisors drawn from KGI’s faculty as well as healthcare and industry partners.
“Historically, graduates with this degree have focused more on the counseling than the drug research and development aspects of the profession,” KGI President Sheldon M. Schuster said. “At KGI, we want to prepare students for a variety of professional settings and train scientists to participate more fully in the drug development process. We are deeply grateful to be supported in this effort by Amgen, which has once again demonstrated its strong commitment to KGI and our contributions to education, research and industry.”
KGI’s Amgen Bioprocessing Center, which develops innovative educational training for students and others in the region, was established in 2004 through a generous donation from the Amgen Foundation, the main philanthropic arm of the company. Amgen leaders have also come to KGI for industry talks and other presentations, including the 2016 commencement ceremony in which Amgen’s chairman and chief executive officer, Robert A. Bradway, served as the keynote speaker.
“We are pleased to support KGI in establishing the new Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling Degree Program,” Bradway said. “Amgen is deeply committed to utilizing tools like advanced human genetics to understand the complexities of disease, as well as partnering with leading institutions such as KGI to meet the demand for professionals in this critical and rapidly expanding arena.”
Preparation to enroll the first students in the new KGI program has already begun. The process to gain accreditation for the program by three key organizations—the American Board of Genetic Counseling, Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)—is underway, as is the search for a program director, which KGI expects to hire within the next month.