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March 2023

Man with mask and gloves in biotech lab

Man with mask and gloves in biotech lab

Opening a Career Path to Biotechnology for Underrepresented Students

Grant from Genentech Foundation enables learning, stipends, career prep in the biotechnology industry.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 27, 2023—A $300,000 grant from the Genentech Foundation, through their Health Equity and Diversity in STEM Innovation Fund, is enabling Santa Clara University to offer career preparation,  specialized learning modules, and stipends to underrepresented or first-generation college students to consider careers in biotechnology or biopharmaceuticals. 

The goal of the program is to provide the students with increased awareness, interest, and readiness for careers they might not otherwise have considered. The training will open up well-paying career options such as process development; data analytics; or development, manufacturing, or marketing of new drugs. 

“Students are often unaware that their interest in computer science, biology or engineering could be translated into careers in biotechnology or biopharma,” said Prashanth Asuri, bioengineering professor and director of the School of Engineering's Healthcare Innovation and Design Program. “What they will learn from the programming being supported by Genentech Foundation is the array of careers that need their special skills.” 

The grant will enable numerous avenues for opening up the biotechnology field—and its increasing convergence with “big data” —to more than 85 underrepresented students, with an explicit focus on those from community colleges: 

  • Up to 20 hours of learning modules entitled “Career Paths in Biotechnology”
    Stipends to students, to enable them to focus on learning without missing out on wages.
  • Stipends to instructors in community colleges or high schools to learn how to provide similar instruction in their classrooms.  
  • Parallel guidance for students on how to transition from community college to a four-year institution; and various professional and job-search skills development. This instruction will leverage SCU’s LEAD Scholars program; Career Launch Academy; LatinX Leadership Incubator, and more. 

“This program supports a key Santa Clara University priority: to support outstanding community college students by identifying career pathways, building networks, and increasing social capital and skills,” said Eva Blanco Masias, vice president for enrollment management at Santa Clara. 

The learning modules have been developed over the past three years for use by industry employees. They were created by SCU students and faculty in collaboration with other industry and academic experts, thanks to $600,000 in previous grants from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals.

Now, through an advanced analytics lens, students will gain a practical understanding of career-advancing concepts in biomanufacturing and biopharmaceutical operations and supply chain. 

Rita Wong, an executive director at Genentech’s Hillsboro, Oregon, manufacturing division that helps bring new medicines into production, served as one of the key industry experts who guided SCU as it designed and tested the learning modules.

“Biotechnology is in a major transition, as new therapies become more targeted and personalized, resulting in more drugs being made in smaller batches,” she said. “Adapting how we manufacture will require new levels of sophisticated design and monitoring, and having a well-trained, specialized workforce is vital to success.”

To produce such a diversity of highly targeted drugs, biopharmaceutical factories and supply chains of the future are expected to become more complex, flexible, modular, and automated. They will produce and utilize vast amounts of data to optimize outcomes, creating a demand for new skillsets across a wide variety of employee roles.

"Through the Innovation Fund, the Genentech Foundation is investing in projects that strengthen community college transition pathways to make four-year institutions more accessible,” said Allen Napetian, Genentech Foundation board chair and vice president, site services at Genentech. “We believe that creating connections between community colleges and four-year institutions will support promising students who have been historically excluded from STEM education opportunities and will help build a scientific and medical workforce that is better equipped to meet the needs of all patients.”

About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education.  For more information see 

About Genentech Foundation
The Genentech Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation whose donations are made possible by contributions from Genentech. Genentech is committed to being a strong corporate citizen, and the Genentech Foundation is one of the most important ways in which they give back to communities they serve. For more information see Genentech Foundation website.

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121


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