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Biocon Academy: Shaping the new pharma talent

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Building a best-in-class academic programme is crucial to the pharma industry and Biocon Academy is committed to this cause. Since its inception, the academy is working towards transforming the academic knowledge into industrial skills which are required for the development of the application of in-depth understanding of technology and regulations. In addition, an eight-week full-time certificate programme in Quality Control Analytical (QCA) course will commence its first batch in Mid August BY USHA SHARMA

As per All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), there are more than 500 pharmacy institutes across India and this number is increasing every year. For the current academic year (2018-19), AICTE has approved and certified 290 pharmacy colleges to give diplomas to applicants along with 102 technical institutes aiding under-graduate and post-graduate degrees in medicine. However, these institutes are still failing to fulfil the demands of the global pharma industry, despite the large numbers. As a result, the Indian pharma industry is facing a talent crunch. Herein the question lies- where do these institutes fall short?

SS Easwaran, Academic Dean, Biocon Academy

The answer is simple: the Indian pharma industry is growing at a significant rate and is witnessing rapid regulatory changes. That makes it difficult for academic institutions to keep up. Furthermore, there is a difference between the knowledge being extended through books and practical world knowledge. So, how can this gap be bridged?

This issue is being consistently contemplated by industry stalwarts and to make a difference, Biocon, an innovation-led fully integrated biopharmaceutical company, decided to start an academy which will train professionals and enhance their skills with advanced learning. This happened in the same year when the Indian government enacted Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act prescribing a mandatory “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spend of two per cent of average net profits under the Companies Act, 2013 and when India became the first country in the world to mandate and quantify CSR expenditure.

SS Easwaran, Academic Dean, Biocon Academy shares the inception details of the academy. He informs, “Biocon Academy was set up as a CSR initiative of Biocon, to address the wide gap that exists between the quality of human capital available in India and the growing needs of the biotech industry. The academy is committed to developing a high-quality talent pool that is industry-ready to enable the biotechnology sector in India to remain globally competitive.”

Biocon Academy offers high-quality innovative programmes focussed on biosciences business to empower experienced professionals and to develop fresh biotech graduates. The advanced learning and industrial proficiency offered through customised curriculum modules focus on integrating the subject knowledge with industry experience. It imparts job-skills essential to build a promising career and emerge as future leaders in the biotech industry.

In January 2014, the company launched its first programme and successfully executed its first batch with 100 per cent placement. They have not looked back since as every year they add new courses and churning out more talented and skilled professionals ready to conquer their career graph Quality Control Analytical (QCA) Course is a highly instrument intensive segment of the industry where the ability to work with complex and high-end equipment is a job mandate. Having hands-on experience in these instruments in addition to providing the knowledge of operations and also providing them ways to address deviations in results.

Bindu Ajit, Programme Dean, Biocon Academy

Recently, the academy announced its collaboration with M S Ramaiah College of Arts, Science, and Commerce, Bangalore for introducing eight-week full-time certificate program in Quality Control Analytical (QCA) course. The course is designed to provide specific job skills, which will emphasise on the instrumentation and regulatory background to help the participants to find meaningful employment in the quality function and start delivering with limited training requirements.

Explaining the needs of such courses in the present scenario, Bindu Ajit, Programme Dean, Biocon Academy mentions, “In the current scenario, the fresh talent pool that is passing out from college possesses theoretical knowledge but they lack hands-on experience, exposure to the industrial processes and work demands. We launched the Biocon Ramaiah Certificate Programme in Quality Control Analytical (QCA) which will aim at providing an exposure to the students so that they understand both the strong regulatory framework as well as learn the skills required to work on high-end laboratory instrumentation.”

She also informs other salient features of this programme. She says that it will also offer experiential learning at Biocon in the areas of Quality Control Analytical at the state-of-the-art Biocon labs using sophisticated analytical instrumentation. And the programme will impart training on the working of analytical instruments combined with operational, application and regulatory know-how related to QC and QA. It will also provide practical experience into the basic principles of troubleshooting. Besides this, the course is designed with a special module, under which a week-long residential hands-on training will be given at the Thermo Fisher, IIT Mumbai Campus to the students.

The training at the Thermo Fisher’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) will help the students to gain visibility to the wide variety of analytical instruments manufactured by Thermo Fisher. To have a fast-paced growth in this area of quality control, exposure to instruments used in both assay and impurity profiling of products and supplies will be of great help.

Course enrollment requirements
Biocon Academy is an advanced learning-educational initiative which takes forward Biocon’s commitment to affordability and greater access. Like its other programmes, Biocon Ramaiah Certificate Program in QCA is being made available to students with Biocon Scholarship of 60 per cent. Revealing more information about the course, Bindu says, “The first batch of QCA programme will begin by August mid-week and since it is a pilot batch it will comprise of maximum 15 -20 students. The eligibility of the programme is MSc., Chemistry, (Analytical/ Organic/Inorganic/ Pharmaceutical/ Industrial), MSc, Biochemistry, Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) should be 6.8 and above on a scale of 10 and applicants should have 65 per cent and above.” So if the applicants meet the requirements can enrol themselves for this exclusive programme which is designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of aspiring chemistry and biochemistry postgraduates. This unique collaboration between Biocon and MS Ramaiah, is a envision to accelerate learning in the fast-growing field of Quality Control Analytical & Regulatory Sciences in pharma and biopharma sector as this is a highly instrument and regulations intensive area.”

There are about 12 well-trained faculties from M S – Ramaiah, who will be teaching the students and the faculty who have been identified for teaching this course have industry experience/ exposure and were also trained in Biocon. To this, the academy will also invite guest lecturers from the industry on every Monday during the course period.

Why MS Ramaiah faculties were trained by Biocon? Commenting on the need of giving training assistance to MS Ramaiah faculties, Easwaran says, “For the student participants in the programme, to speak the industry-specific language, it is very important to orient the faculty to the industrial applications of the scientific principles. As a part of the orientation programme, the faculty of MS Ramaiah was addressed by the managers and leaders of Biocon and also taken to the Quality Control Analytical departments for them to see the applications.”

The academy seems positive and enthusiastic with the introduction of the new course of QCA, as its all other courses have worked well and set the benchmark with 100 per cent placement in the industry. Building a collaborative culture Biocon Academy has taken the collaborative route to design unique industry-oriented programmes. It has tied up with academic institutions such as the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), California, BITS, Pilani, and M S Ramaiah College, as well as, life sciences companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific, BiOZEEN and Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital to impart best in class industry-ready programmes. Its flagship programme is the Biocon KGI Certificate Programme in Biosciences. Bindu highlights, “With a broad-based international curriculum encompassing R&D, Production as per GMP, Quality, Regulatory, Product Development and Professional skills, the Biocon-KGI Certificate Programme in Biosciences equips Biotech students with the necessary knowledge, skills and industrial training to make them employable in the industry. And we have completed 13 batches with 100 per cent placement record for all students in leading pharma and biopharma companies.”

Besides this, it has also designed other programs which have tremendous industry requirements of trained professionals are: 1. BITS Biocon Certificate Programme in Applied Industrial Microbiology (AIM)2. Biocon KGI Certificate Programme in Clinical Development (CDP)3. Faculty Development Programme Highlighting the requirement of designing these courses Bindu points out, “Industry is always in the pressure of producing high-quality medicines in the shortest possible time incurring least expenses to be competitive in the market and to make the medicines accessible to the common person. In this context, the industry would find it difficult to train a fresh talent from the college and start seeing the deliverable coming after a year or so. On the other hand, the industry is certainly in its inflexion point to get into the rapid growth pace. To encash the opportunities and to keep up with the pace of growth, it is important to have the right and relevant talent pool in place. Creating the right talent pool for the industry is one of the key intervention industry could do and Biocon Academy has taken the fits step of this unique model keeping in mind the overall benefit to the industry ecosystem.”There is a huge need for the right talent and alone it will be difficult to accomplish the entire task. Therefore, industry stakeholders need to come together and work closely in bridging the gap. Easwaran significantly points out, “More companies/ industries participating will certainly take this initiative to the next level of creating the right talent pool for the Indian as well as for the global market. And the need of the hour is collaboration. As the model is created by Biocon Academy and found to be working extremely successful in the benefit of the industry, more and more industries should start similar initiatives. Segment-wise approach including bioscience, clinical research, quality etc. is one way of going about and region-based expansions like having similar models working in each pharma-biopharma hubs of India like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Baddi, Goa, Mumbai etc. can bring about a focused development of highly efficient talent pool in the country and is relevant to take the sector to next level of growth.”

Shared responsibility model may work effectively and the academy believes in following before they preach!

Mentoring mentors , one of its unique course is the Faculty Development Programme which is designed for working faculties. Why there is a need for mentoring the mentors?

So, the objective of education or knowledge is not only teaching or learning but also updating themselves with changes. So, the regulatory requirements of the global pharma world are changing considerably and therefore gurus too need to be updated and kept informed. Their knowledge enhancement will certainly add values in designing the right talent for society.
Easwaran highlights, “It is a unique programme which is aimed at the faculty who are teaching biotechnology or any bioscience subject in institutes. It is a two weeks full-time program, delivered at the Biocon Academy which comprises of 20 interactive lectures delivered by subject matter experts/managers from Biocon and 24 hours of experiential learning at Biocon’s high-end and world-class manufacturing facilities, quality and research labs.”

A way forward
Biotechnology research is revolutionising the way the diseases are being diagnosed by using genetic and molecular biological methods. The overall research in the biotech sector including the healthcare, agriculture, alternative fuels and bioinformatics has made such a significant impact that the company can move from therapeutic to predictive healthcare which benefits the patients in a big way. However, companies focus on biotech research is still at its primitive stage and it has a long way to go. Commenting on the potential of research work in the biotech arena, Bindu says, “Biotechnology research is shaping the overall healthcare in a very different way. Now we have developed capabilities to replace the painful radiotherapy and chemotherapy for the life-threatening diseases like cancer with biological drugs and ensure a better quality of the extended life span. India is one among the leaders in the global biosimilar market and the bio-similar research has made so many drugs accessible to the common people.”

“And with glocal approach of the biotech markets, Biocon has identified the importance of exposing its managers to the way the markets behave and how to connect their work to the over-all business outcome,” adds Bindu. Over 500 students have graduated from the academy spanning across 25 batches – all programmes put together and have been placed across 50 leading biotech, pharma and service companies. With the success of the pilot batch of Biosciences Management batch, the company’s next in pipeline programme is the MBA in Biotechnology in association with Keck Graduate Institute. The other programmes which are at the concept level include Applied Bioinformatics and International Regulatory Affairs. “We are also working towards holding a conference on the Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery,” informs Bindu.

A quote of Nelson Mandela’s goes so apt with the Biocon Academy’s objective, which says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And the initiatives which have been taken by Biocon Academy are heading in the right direction.

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