Company reps talk biomanufacturing jobs at Biotech Center panel

Apr. 28, 2014 @ 06:54 PM

The state’s “crown jewel” for attracting new biotechnology business is its workforce, a N.C. Biotechnology Center official told a group that gathered Monday to hear about job opportunities in the sector.

“That’s what wins North Carolina projects,” said Bill Bullock, the center’s vice president of bioscience industrial development said at a meeting of the NCBiotech Jobs Network.

The network launched, according to Robin Deacle, the center’s vice president for corporate communications, to connect applicants who couldn’t find work with company officials who said they couldn’t find the right candidates.

Deacle said that in addition to job applicants, the center recruited company human resource representatives.

“The space you’re going to hear about today is growing,” Bullock told the group on Monday. He works in economic development, and said there are 15 possible company expansions or companies looking to start new operations in North Carolina that could create between 750 to 1,000 jobs in the state if they happen.

Monday’s panel included manufacturing representatives from two companies with Research Triangle Park operations.

Travis Pysar is the senior manager of large-scale manufacturing in RTP for Massachusetts-based Biogen Idec.

He said the company uses a temp agency to hire entry-level manufacturing employees. Otherwise, he said the company looks for candidates with two to four years of experience.

The company ramps up hiring alongside growth in the number of clinical products the facility is helping to make or when it gets a new product.

The company develops, manufactures and markets therapies for treating multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and hemophilia.

Biogen Idec recently got U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a new hemophilia B treatment to be manufactured in the park, a spokesman for the company said.

“(We’re) looking for some good growth (at) Biogen Idec in the next year or two,” Pysar said.

Another speaker was Bruno Pancorbo, the downstream process manager for Medicago, a

Canada-based company that uses plants to make vaccines. Its “virus-like” particles are designed to help the body’s immune system prepare for an attack.

Last year, the company announced that the Japanese pharmaceutical company Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. was buying the majority of the company’s shares except for 40 percent of the shares owned by Philip Morris Investments.

The company’s RTP manufacturing facility employs as many as 70 people, Pancorbo said. The facility makes materials for the development of a seasonal influenza vaccine candidate.

He said he expects the company will need more process development employees in the park.

“When looking for a job, make sure it’s something you like to do,” he said, adding that roles in manufacturing can involve more repetitive work, while work such as research can involve more diversity day-to-day.

Raleigh resident Teresa Brake attended the event to try to find a job in quality assurance for a biotechnology manufacturing business. She said she was laid off from a company after working there for 18 years.

Brake said that while she’s seen job openings, companies are looking for workers with previous experience and there are many applicants.

Also at the meeting was Ryan M. Carris, who said he’s the president of a nonprofit called Young Science Professionals of RTP. He said the group is for people 21 to 35 years old who’re looking for life science jobs in RTP. The goal is to help applicants be self-advocates, he said.

“It seems that there are jobs available,” he said. “This building wouldn’t exist if there weren’t quite a few opportunities,” he added.

Josh Uronis has a doctorate in genetics and molecular biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He said he’s looking for research and development jobs at a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company in the RTP, but said he’s found that there are a lot of people looking for those jobs.

“The job market’s OK, but it’s not great,” he said.

Uronis came to the meeting to see if there are positions in bio-manufacturing, but said he found that companies in the area are looking more for bachelor’s degree-level candidates.