Octavio Tonatiuh
Director
UNAM’s Instituto de Biotecnología
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View from the Top

Training Professionals for the Biopharmaceutical Industry

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 09:47

Q: What efforts has the institute made to push for more and better trained local professionals covering a growing market demand for biotech services?

A: The Institute has focused on four main strategies for promoting biotechnology. First, we held two open house events, during which visitors of all ages visit our Institute to learn about biotechnology and our day to day work. More than 100 different activities are designed by our community including guided visits, seminars for amateurs, photographic exhibitions, hands-on demonstrations and other activities. In 2016, 584 members participated and 2,400 people attended, doubling the number of people that attended in 2014. Most were undergraduate students, many of which applied for admission to our graduate program. This effort is complemented by visits from different universities and elementary schools throughout the school year.

Our second strategy focuses on the productive sector. We host seminars, ad hoc courses and private visits for the industry, government and NGOs. In the last five years the Institute has signed agreements with 40 different entities. We aim to create bonds between the industry and our students many of which already work at key positions in non-academic institutions.

The third strategy has been the establishment of specialized infrastructure to support not only academic activities but also governmental and industrial needs. Central to this effort has been the launch of the National Laboratory for Production and Analysis of Biopharmaceuticals (LAMMB). This laboratory has state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly experienced and qualified scientists and technicians in all areas related to the production and analysis of recombinant proteins employed as active ingredients in vaccines and therapeutics.

These areas include gene synthesis and transformation into suitable cell hosts, cell culture or fermentation, downstream processing and formulation and a thorough analytical characterization of the particular recombinant product. LAMMB acts as a link between basic research performed at IBt, national regulatory authorities and industrial partners. Thus, LAMMB supports industry throughout various critical areas during biopharmaceutical product development and also supports government agencies with detailed independent characterization reports that sustain quality, safety and efficacy claims required during product registration. The fourth strategy has been the publication of a new magazine called “Biotecnología en Movimiento” or Biotechnology in Movement. The purpose of this magazine is to describe in simple and friendly language the on-going research at our institute as well as publishing select information on relevant and new developments in all areas of biotechnology.

Q: Which types of research are Big Pharma companies looking for the most and what are the main reasons behind this?

A: At this point the industry is looking for expert advice and highly specialized knowledge on product characterization during clinical and preclinical phases, process transfer and scale up. Mexican biotechnology still needs to advance toward the development of new products and at this point the route to get products developed by Mexican academia to the market is being paved.

Q: What companies has IBt helped to develop biotechnology practices and what makes the UNAM the best partner of choice for these types of activities?

A: IBt has worked with over 50 institutions. We have worked with companies in Mexico, Brazil, the US and Australia, helping them in a variety of matters. New drug development, product characterization, process scale-up, preclinical and clinical testing are all within the expertise of the institute. With 100 researchers, many of whom are world leaders in their fields, the Institute of Biotechnology is a unique place that conjoins a very strong basic science group with an equally strong technology development and applied science group. Moreover, the IBt has been collaborating with the industry since its foundation. The Institute has a deep understanding of the needs of the industry that has been acquired throughout the years.