Kite Pharma on Why It's Better Here
By Alex Keown
In 2019, Kite Pharma, part of the Gilead Sciences family, planted a flag in Frederick, Maryland with the launch of its state-of-the-art cell therapy manufacturing facility that produces CAR-T therapies like Yescarta for patients with difficult-to-treat blood cancers. The company has made Maryland a central component in its ongoing operations and is making strides in bolstering the state’s position as a leading biopharma hub in the United States.
The selection of Maryland for the manufacturing center was strategic, as it allowed Kite to take full advantage of the rich talent pool within the state, the company said. The Kite manufacturing site is providing employment for hundreds of people. Not only is the company providing employment opportunities for current life sciences jobs seekers, Kite is also prepping the next generation of employees through workforce training programs established with Frederick Community College and Hood College.
Jim Jackson, vice president of manufacturing operations and site head in Frederick, said the company is happy with the relationship Kite has developed with the communities and the schools.
At Frederick, Kite has opened up an apprenticeship program. The company currently has two Cell Therapy Specialists apprentices working in its Frederick facility and has plans to add even more throughout the year. The apprenticeship program, which has received support from the Maryland Department of Labor, offers a student the opportunity to learn the role of a specialist, all while receiving the benefits of a full-time employee. The apprentices also have tuition costs covered while they earn their biotechnology degree.
“They are able to get hands-on real world experience and take that back to the classroom,” the company said and added that upon graduation, the apprentices are eligible for a promotion to a Cell Therapy Specialist I.
The collaboration with Hood College is also centered on training cell therapy specialists. The company established a state-of-the-art lab on the campus to train Kite staff and students on cell therapy methods. Not only does the lab providing training for students and employees, it has influenced curriculum at the school as well. Next year, Hood College will offer a cell therapy course taught by Kite staff.
Not only is Kite Pharma positively impacting the training of future life sciences employees through those training programs at the two schools, the company is making an even broader effort to improve workforce training through its involvement with the Workforce Development Task Force, which was commissioned by the Life Sciences Advisory Board and the Maryland Tech Council. Brian Stamper, senior director of manufacturing at the Frederick facility, co-chairs the task force alongside AstraZeneca’s Joe Sanchez, that company’s director of North America R&D Science Engagement.
The goal of the task force is to support a thriving workforce to promote the growth of Maryland's life sciences sector.” The task force has been examining the current talent pool and making recommendations on how to prepare for the tens of thousands of available positions expected within the state’s life sciences ecosystem over the next decade. Stamper and the task force are examining ways in which to connect the industry with potential employees, including those who may not have a four-year degree. Through the guidance of Stamper and Gomez, the task force is supporting the development of a BioHub Training Center in order to meet the expected demand for future employees.
In three short years, Kite has become an integral part of the Maryland Life Sciences ecosystem and highlighted why It’s Better Here.
Learn more about Kite Pharma on their official website.
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