Visitors to the bioprocessing lab at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) see a space where students use the latest industry equipment, gaining experience with bioreactors and other tools they will encounter in their professional careers. This equipment is a new addition to the lab, donated to KGI by Sartorius, a global supplier of products and technologies for the biopharmaceutical industry and laboratories. It replaces equipment in use at KGI since 2007.
“In our industry, that’s old,” says KiriLynn Svay, KGI director of bioprocessing engineering operations for the school’s Amgen Bioprocessing Center. “The donated equipment is used, but it gives our students training that’s up-to-date for industry. Now we also have twice the equipment, which is very helpful.”
“The more skills and experience students have with a variety of equipment, the more competitive they are in the job market.”
The addition of 20 different pieces offers students in KGI’s growing Master of Engineering (Meng) in Biopharmaceutical Processing program, as well as Master of Business and Science (MBS) students with a bioprocessing concentration, increased access to essential equipment, including single-use bioreactors.
“The industry we’re in is rapidly moving toward single-use technologies,” says Parviz Shamlou, director of the Amgen Bioprocessing Center and the George B. and Joy Rathman Professor at KGI. “We have about 70 students using this equipment on an almost daily basis in our laboratories now.”
Shamlou explains that the donation from Sartorius is an outgrowth of a strong partnership between the company and KGI. Since 2014, students have presented posters and Shamlou has been a keynote speaker at Sartorius conferences. Company executives have reciprocated with keynote addresses at Amgen Bioprocessing Center Advisory Board (ABCAB) meetings. Now also represented on this board, Sartorius has sponsored ABCAB annual meeting for the past three years and donated equipment previously.
The latest donation was announced at the 2017 ABCAB meeting and will be recognized at the 2018 gathering on November 9. In particular, Shamlou gives credit to Mario Becker, head of product management for cell culture technologies at Sartorius, for making it possible.
“The donation was a direct result of discussions at the meeting last November,” says Shamlou. ‘We talked about how companies can help KGI bioprocessing grow in terms of numbers, equipment, and programs.”
Another contributor to the company’s relationship with KGI is Vincent Lam, MBS ’10, an application specialist in fermentation technologies at Sartorius. Lam made the initial introductions that resulted in a continuing partnership. More recently, he helped another KGI graduate, Nancy Matti, MEng ’18, gain an application specialist position at Sartorius.
“The program at KGI did a lot for me, especially KiriLynn, who was one of my mentors,” explains Lam. “I felt it was only fitting to find a way to help the school and better the program through my own work and connections. What I didn’t know was how far it would go.”
As for the equipment donation, Lam says, “It helps train future users by providing students with up-to-date technologies that prepare them to meet the growing demands of industry once they enter their careers. What better way is there to make sure students are well prepared?”