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									CELS Winter Feature News Article
Winter, 2006


Linkages between Amgen and CELS aid students, faculty and
programs

By: Rudi Hempe, CELS News Editor and Reporter

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THE expansive, ultra-modern Amgen campus in West Greenwich could easily be
used as a set for a science fiction movie but there is nothing fictional about its
importance to the state’s economic development and its ongoing involvement
with the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS).

Just recently, Amgen donated more laboratory equipment for the biotechnology
programs in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology worth $81,000—two
gas chromatographs, two protein sequencers, centrifuges, incubators and other
gear.

Those equipment donations plus others given earlier this year total nearly
$170,000, says Dr. Greg Paquette, URI's director of biotechnology programs.
Earlier this year, Rhode Island landed its first NFS EPSCoR grant--$6.75 million
–that will benefit all 11 of the higher education institutions in the state. The intent
of the grant is to boost the state’s competitiveness for federal research funding.
“Amgen is delighted to partner with the flagship public university in the state,”
said Kimball Hall, vice president and general manager of Amgen’s Rhode Island
operations. “We have a shared mission in that we both seek an educated
populace. Aligning with URI, and particularly CELS, is important to us because
you are educating the next generation of life scientists.”

According to Larry Bernard, Amgen’s senior manager of corporation
communications, there likely will be future equipment donations as well.
But the relationship between the pharmaceutical giant and CELS has been more
than equipment donations—there has been considerable help rendered on the
academic side.

Amgen helped CELS set up the biotechnical curriculum by supplying experts
from its staff who brought advice and suggestions to the table.
“We were able to supply industry experts to help URI students learn what skills
are needed in biotechnology manufacturing,” Bernard said. And that help is
continuing as Amgen has three people on the Biotechnology Industry Advisory
Committee, formed five years ago with representatives of 11 different biotech
companies.

Paquette noted that in addition to advising, Amgen employees have also served
as guest lecturers in the biotechnology program. In fact, Robert Amalfetano, an
Amgen manufacturing manager in the cell culture area, gave a talk to students in
the biotech manufacturing program just this month.

The close cooperation has inevitably led to considerable employment
opportunities for URI students at Amgen.

Amgen has taken a sizable number of students from the Biotechnology
Manufacturing Program based at the Feinstein Campus in Providence and
Microbiology Program for full-time, paid one-semester internships, says
Paquette, and many have been hired subsequently.

In addition, adds Paquette, “They have hired a number of undergraduate
students—94 from the Biotechnology Management Program last year—to work in
research, development, manufacturing, regulatory affairs and quality assurance.”
As for graduate students, Paquette says of about 90 students in the masters
program in clinical laboratory science, about half are in the biotechnology track
and 15 are from Amgen.

"Amgen has been extremely supportive of the development of biotechnology programs for CELS,
says Paquette. “They have donated nearly $200,000 in cash and laboratory equipment and
provided advisory committee support, lecturers, internships and employment opportunities for the
graduates of our three biotechnology programs. The three programs are The BS Biotechnology
Manufacturing, BS Microbiology/Biotechnology, and MS Biotechnology programs. The
Amgen/CELS partnership has been a ‘win-win’ arrangement and has gone a long way to
establishing a strong and robust biomanufacturing industry in the state".

The current class in Providence has 24 students and, says, Dr. Kenneth S.
Uhnak, manager of the biology labs there, students come for the one year
training from all directions.

Felicity Alvino, (shown below at left) for example, was a stay-at-home mother for
15 years—she got married right after high school-- and now that her children are
older, she decided to explore a career. “I always liked science,” she says. Indeed
students get a heavy dose of it in the one-year program.

Tim Cinq-mars, another student comes from a different direction. He is one of the
few students who entered the program right out of high school and is enrolled at
URI as a freshman.
Upon completion of the course, the students get a bachelor’s degree in
biotechnology—the program is the only one of its type in New England says
Uhnak who is excited to be teaching stem cell biology for the first time in the
spring to graduate students.

Upon graduation, says Uhnak, the students in the Providence program go in all
directions for employment.

“In general it benefits us and URI to have a strong relationship because CELS is educating the next
generation of skilled biotechnology manufacturing talent, which is crucial for the economic
development of the state and, quite frankly, Amgen’s continued success in Rhode Island.”
- Larry Bernard, Sr. Mgr., Communications, Amgen

Bernard said Amgen is in the process of doing a survey of its 1,700 employees.
The effort is incomplete but one statistic is already in. Of all the workers at
Amgen who attended college in Rhode Island, 45 percent went to URI. “That
speaks volumes of how important our relationship with URI is to us,” Bernard
says.

Monetary support has also been a part of the relationship between Amgen and
CELS. Amgen has given $25,000 to help establish the Biotechnology
Manufacturing Lab, the Amgen Foundation gave URI more than $100,000 to help
launch life.edu, a non-profit venture which is involved with the new on-line
biotechnology course being offered by URI CELS.

Bernard said cooperation between CELS and Amgen will continue. The company
will continue to supply advisors, donate money and equipment and take interns
from URI programs and to increase the number of paid internships.

								
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