ACPHS In The News

NIIMBL at ACPHS gives students a biopharma eXperience

June 17, 2024

Joy Mwangangye attends college and works as a high school teaching assistant in the Boston area. But it took a trip to Albany to see inside the wonders of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Indeed, a Boston-based Takeda facility was Mwangangye’s favorite stop in the NIIMBL eXperience, a weeklong exploration of the biopharmaceutical industry hosted by ACPHS’ Stack Family Center for Biopharmaceutical Education and Training (CBET) from June 3-7. At Takeda, Mwangangye got an up-close, firsthand look at the cell therapies she teaches students about in her high school classroom. There and at the other industry sites she visited during the week, she also learned about many career options available in biopharma, from research to manufacturing to quality control to pharmacy itself.

“This program has been a wonderful confirmation of how many opportunities there are in the biopharmaceutical space,” she said.

Mwangangye was one of 11 first- and second-year college students chosen to attend the eXperience, a program from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals that seeks to expose minority students to a burgeoning industry. This is the second year that CBET has hosted the weeklong event.

Students got hands-on laboratory experience at ACPHS and visited other academic research facilities in the region, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Neural Stem Cell Institute, and the College of Nanotechnology, Science and Engineering and RNA Institute at the University at Albany. They visited  companies in the Capital Region, like Biomed Innova and Next Advance, and they took a trip to Boston for tours of Curia Global, Amgen, Takeda and Cytiva.

As the week was wrapping up on Friday, June 7, they touted the hands-on activities and the networking among the program’s greatest attributes. Several also liked a ziplining ice breaker in Schenectady.

As for the hands-on aspects of the NIIMBL eXperience, Aniyah Allen loved getting to dissect an eyeball at the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer. She had never dissected anything before, and liked that they were free to experiment without the pressure of excessive oversight – or grading of their technique.

Several students expressed an interest in reaching out to potential mentors they had met at various institutions over the week.

Pristine Onuoha, a student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, learned about NIIMBL at ACPHS through another network, Seeds of Fortune, an online program that supports women of color find affordable college options and financial security. It was there that she met Brianna Yanson, who attended NIIMBL at ACPHS in 2023. Yanson is now doing an internship with a UAlbany professor she met during her NIIMBL eXperience.

ACPHS microbiology student Emily Louie was also among the NIIMBL participants. The Brooklyn resident, a rising sophomore, came to ACPHS with an interest in the biopharmaceutical industry but uncertain about the particular career path she would like within the field. Dr. Patel Datta, Biomanufacturing and Bioprocessing program director, encouraged her to explore the industry through the NIIMBL eXperience.

“I thought it would be a good way for me to see what I want to pursue,” Louie said.

She was not disappointed, particularly in learning more about the difference between upstream and downstream processes in manufacturing, she said. She will shadow Dr. Datta in the upstream processing lab next year.