July 11, 2023

Building a Skilled Workforce for the Biotech Revolution: Challenges and Solutions of the Cell and Gene Therapy Industry

Kevin Conard
Kevin Conard


Biotechnology in general and cell and gene therapy in particular are poised to become the breakout technologies of the 21st century. The rapid advancements and breakthroughs in these areas have created exciting opportunities for the development of innovative treatments. However, these fields' specialized nature means there is a limited pool of professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge.

The demand for skilled workers in these fields is driven by factors such as the expansion of research and development activities, the increasing number of clinical trials, and the commercialization of novel therapies. Additionally, the biotech industry often faces challenges in finding qualified personnel due to the interdisciplinary nature of the work and the need for individuals who can bridge the gap between scientific research and business development.

Addressing the need for skilled workers in the biotech/cell and gene therapy space is a complex and multifaceted problem that will not be solved overnight, and the solution will be equally complex and multi-faceted, including education, training, and talent development. The BioInsights Podcast dedicated a 4-part series discussing various problems and ways to address them. Check out the link at the end of this article to see their insights.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)education must be enhanced at high schools, technical colleges, and universities.This includes providing robust biology and biotechnology curricula, experimental design, and data analysis schema. Students need to not only be able to carryout the hands-on tasks but also understand both how to correctly design an experiment and interpret the data. Specialized training programs that focus on biotech, cell therapy, and gene therapy, such as the Stem Cell Technologies certificated program at Madison College will need to be set up. This program, and others like it, provides practical training in the latest techniques, technologies, and regulatory frameworks.

Strong partnerships need to be fostered between industry and academia to bridge the gap between academic curricula and industry requirements. Industry should be working hand in glove with academia to tailor the necessary course work so that students graduate with the most complete skill set possible. A skill set that not only includes technical training, but also a strong subset of quality and regulatory affairs so that the incoming workforce can produce products that meet or exceed regulatory requirements. Understanding why something must be done a certain way is just as important as understanding how to do something a certain way. Industry leaders have years of experience and understanding in their space. It is time to work directly with academia to pass it on.

New techniques, technology and processes are being developed every year. Encourage ongoing professional development for individuals already working in the field. This field is not static, and the workforce development should not be either.

Increase funding for research and development in biotech,cell therapy, and gene therapy. This not only promotes innovation but also attracts top talent to the field and provides opportunities for researchers and scientists to work on innovative projects.

Governments can play a crucial role in addressing the need for skilled workers by implementing supportive policies. Recent graduates coming into the workforce are not the only source of talent. Investments in retraining older workers who were downsized/laid off from other industries will provide a source of experienced workers. These industries need support staff in the form of supply chain managers, program managers, QA (Quality Assurance) and regulatory affairs as well as bench scientists, and these positions are familiar enough across various industries that new candidates can be found with a modicum of retraining.

The future of biotechnology will be transformative, touching every aspect of our lives. But to fully realize the promise, there must be a talented and trained workforce available to fulfill that promise and that requires the input, and more importantly, collaboration between industry, academia, and local, state, and federal governments.

The CultureTrax platform can be a key component in addressing these concerns in two ways. First the standardized workflows, actions with materials and standardized instructions along a timeline, removes ambiguity and speeds training. Second, the standardized workflow brings all members of the lab to the (near) same level of competency. Check out this link to a 2018 grant study for more details.


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