Biotech Partners’ High School Biotech Academy & Community College Bioscience Career Institute

Biotech Partners’ High School Biotech Academy & Community College Bioscience Career Institute

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Biotech Partners’ innovative model unites urban school & community college districts & scores of life science employers to transform young people’s lives through science. BP: • Provides an interactive academic curriculum & paid bioscience job training to help minority & low-income youth bridge the achievement gap, pursue post-secondary education & end generational cycles of poverty • Equips students with the education, life & work skills necessary to access meaningful science careers • Diversifies the life-science industry with those from populations historically excluded from well-paying careers “A lot of what I have in my life and what I’ve obtained as far as education, work & life skills is due to Biotech Partners. This program changes people’s lives.” - BP Alum, Manager, BioM
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

BP serves SF East Bay youth facing crushing educational realities & equally bleak employment prospects; 89% of BP students come from families earning below median income & over 60% come from low-income families. 50% of Af-Am students & 66% of Hispanic students in Oakland drop out of high school & only 15% of those who do graduate are ready for college; only 14% Af-Am & 17% of Hispanic graduates who go to community college achieve a degree w/in 3 years. Student challenges: • Poor role modeling & home life stressors: Many grow up lacking reinforcement of the importance of academics or guidance on skills. Few have access to professional role models; many come from areas where drugs & crime seem feasible "careers" & face home life pressures (supporting family, caring for siblings, parental substance abuse, neglect, etc.). • Poor basic skills, low-expectations & limited academic endurance: Many students join BP w/poor math & literacy skills, having passed through lower grades w/out mastering the basics, inculcating low self-expectations. Most enter w/minimal "academic endurance" - the ability to stay on track & sustain focus over time. • Little connection between academic success & career choices: Many entering BP students have little exposure to college graduates or professionals & therefore don’t connect school w/what they will do in the future to support themselves. And, prior to BP, class material often seems irrelevant & studying fruitless. BP guides students in developing essential skills & helps them foster high expectations, self-confidence & aspirations for their future.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

BP knows of no org synthesizing BP’s key program elements: targeting underserved & often initially underperforming youth, high school & community college structure, paid internships & wrap-around support services, all enabled by strong partnerships w/ 40+ orgs. Other programs mostly target high-performing students, limit internships to one field (e.g. healthcare) &/or don’t offer PAID internships, a critical incentive (& often, need) for BP students. A pioneer in linked learning, BP is often asked to advise efforts to set up similar programs across industries. BP was recently invited to a White House Council for Community Solutions forum to share best practices in helping youth graduate high school & college, & pursue high tech careers. Participants discussed a recent Harvard School of Education report “Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century” which documents the efficacy of BP’s own structural components. Among leading efforts described however, none contains all elements of BP’s approach, most notably paid internships & extensive personal & academic support. The report does note the growth of the Career Academy model, which BP was among the 1st to innovate back in 1992. "[BP] is one of Berkeley High's best programs. Educators talk about equity & equitable access to excellent academic programs; BP…is doing just that, succeeding in closing the race & socio-economically based academic achievement gap…This program has also been used as a model in developing other programs at Berkeley High." - Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

BP provides high school & community college students w/hands-on “linked learning” educational & job-training opportunities preparing them for bioscience & healthcare careers. BP’s high school Biotech Academy (Academy) & community college Bioscience Career Institute (BCI) foster students’ ability to succeed both academically & professionally & provide local science-based orgs w/skilled, reliable entry-level technicians. Academy 11th & 12th graders take 6 elective courses (4 biotech, chemistry & algebra) focusing on bioscience employment skills. BP's free program provides extensive 1-on-1 attention (max 25/biotech class; lab assistant in Academy classes; tutoring, personal & career counseling) at Berkeley & Oakland Tech High Schools. Scientists & alumni bring real-world scientific experience & hands-on experiments into class to inspire students. Workforce prep includes a Career Awareness Conference, resume prep workshops & mock interview training prior to interviews for paid science-based summer internships after 11th grade. Guided by volunteer mentor-supervisor scientists/technicians, students learn industry practices & essential soft skills. Academy graduates may apply to the BCI which provides advanced lab training & college courses (Algebra, Intro to Bio, Microbiology, Inorganic Chem, & Organic/Biochem), placement in higher paying mentored co-op jobs; &, upon completion, a Certificate of Achievement in Bioscience. Weekly co-op education classes provide employment development training & support. Students also receive extensive staff support, free tutoring & stipends.
About You
Biotech Partners (BP)
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Biotech Partners (BP)

Organization Phone


Organization Address

P.O. Box 2186, Berkeley, CA 94702

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

BP (originally Berkeley Biotech Education, Inc. (BBEI)) was a collaborative effort from the beginning, driven by Berkeley Mayor (now State Senator) Loni Hancock & Bayer HealthCare. In the early 1990s, Bayer sought to establish its worldwide biotech headquarters in Berkeley, having long had a presence in the City. Bayer executives met w/City officials extensively & participated in over 100 community meetings to solicit feedback on support that Bayer could provide to ensure its growth benefitted the City & its residents. The most consistent issue voiced was the need for stronger educational & employment options for the City’s disadvantaged youth. The founders’ vision centered on workforce development & creating career opportunities, particularly for underserved Berkeley youth.

Based on experience in Germany w/highly successful vocational training models, Bayer strongly endorsed establishing a similar model in Berkeley. Unlike in Germany, however, the Berkeley program would be both vocational & academic, provide local schools w/a unique learning model, & focus on underperforming & “at-risk” youth.

Bayer provided office space & start-up funding & continues to support BP through its Development Agreement w/the City (through 2022). Bayer allocates funds for high school & community college interns; encourages staff to serve as tutors & mentors; hires BP graduates into skilled technical positions; funds curriculum development; & donates state-of-the-art lab equipment. Deeply grateful for Bayer's support, BP now has support from many funding & industry partners.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

• Since 2004 100% of students completing the Academy have graduated from high school.
• 100% of 2011 graduates are pursuing post-secondary education (97% since ’93), compared to 54% of CA students.
• 60% of BCI students have completed their studies & received the Certificate of Achievement in Bioscience, more than twice the state average for students in similar programs.
• BP has made nearly 1,000 placements in training positions in which students have earned more than $3 million, money that often helps support students’ families.
• BP has successfully maintained 100% job placement for BCI graduates seeking bioscience employment. An increasing number continue their post-secondary educations, earning 4-year & even higher degrees.

BP is currently undertaking a thorough review of its Theory of Change in preparation for an extensive evaluation by consulting group See Change. This will result in identifying additional metrics beyond BP’s current success factors (above). BP is particularly interested in determining its effect on increasing science literacy & how BP’s STEM focus increases students’ self-esteem & ability to envision a better future for themselves.

BP has received extensive recognition, including having been awarded the prestigious Pantheon Biotechnology Educator Award from BayBio, the Northern California life science industry trade association & has been recognized by national, state & local politicians as well.

More meaningful than statistics or accolades however, the students’ own words in the attached videos powerfully convey BP’s impact.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

BP is undergoing “Strategic Planning Preparation” through an in-kind grant awarded by the Taproot Foundation, as well as the above-mentioned evaluation. These will inform BP’s direction over the next 3 years. BP is currently in the process of launching an intensive college-prep pilot program targeting African-American males who are BP’s most fragile population, often giving up when faced w/challenges because they don’t have the confidence they can succeed. BP is also expanding its parental engagement programming & refining the BCI structure to facilitate success for even more students. BP has been invited to engage in a (to be determined) partnership w/Cal State University East Bay’s STEM Education Center, & will be exploring new schools &/or districts to which to expand.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

W/a successful long-term track record & well-established partnerships w/40+ orgs, including excellent relations w/Berkeley & Oakland Unified School Districts & host schools, BP is confident in its programmatic sustainability. Key challenges to ongoing success include:

Availability of funding - while BP has sustained itself for 18 years, the org’s current funding mix partially relies on local govt sources which may disappear due to budget cuts. BP is working to expand its institutional donor base (corporate & private foundations) & individual giving. Based on its trajectory & tools under development (strategic plan, evaluation & database development), BP is confident it will be able to secure new private & public funding (if available, e.g. Nat’l Science Fndtn & Dept. of Labor).

National paucity of trained & experienced secondary science educators willing to work in under-resourced urban schools - BP works w/school-selected teachers to optimize scientific teaching, providing intensive classroom support & training opportunities, including industry internships.

Availability of internships & host-paid student wages - BP’s paid high school & community college internships are essential to students’ success as well as the program’s success & future growth. When BP expands to a new school/district, many new internships will be needed. Staff is actively working to recruit new internship hosts able to pay wages & who will accept high school students &/or students w/less than a 4-year degree, the latter still a prevalent industry prejudice which BP continuously works to overcome.

Tell us about your partnerships

As reflected in its name, BP’s success relies on the strengths of the unique partnerships it has established w/industry, academia & other institutions.

Industry - Employees of industry partners serve as volunteer mentors during internships, as guest speakers motivating students to pursue biotech careers, as presenters at the annual Career Awareness Conference & as judges at the annual intern poster competition. Employee engagement significantly benefits BP & has been seen to boost morale & job satisfaction of participating volunteers. Partners include: Bayer HealthCare, Novartis AG, East Bay Municipal Utility District, USDA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Kaiser Permanente, the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Children’s Hosp Oakland Research Institute, labs at UC Berkeley, & many more.

Education - BP has deep relationships w/its partner public schools & school districts, creating a collaboration that increases student services & resources. Schools benefit from lab equipment & supplies provided by BP, a BP-paid teaching/lab assistant in each Academy class, teacher training opportunities, & extensive personal & academic support & job placement for students.

Support Services - BP prepares students not just for bioscience careers but for successful lives by partnering w/other community-based organizations & individuals to teach critical life-skills (e.g. time & financial management (CitiBank, INOVA Credit Union), appropriate dress/comportment (Wardrobe for Opportunity)) & personal counseling (pro bono services of licensed professionals). Other individuals also contribute significantly to BP students’ success including HR specialists, youth development professionals & science professors, among other examples.

Explain your selections

As above, BP’s success relies on a well-established & growing network of partners including corporate, private & public funders, local governments, school districts & partnering NGOs.

BP receives funding from education & community development oriented foundations including TK, Crescent Porter Hale, Y & H Soda & Irene S. Scully Family Foundation, among others. While Bayer is BP’s longest-standing corporate funder, BP has developed corporate partnerships w/Amgen, American Honda, & Toyota & continually works to cultivate others. BP also benefits from competitively awarded local public funds including CDBG grants from the City of Berkeley & Oakland Fund for Children & Youth funding supported by local tax measures.

BP receives a tremendous amount of in-kind support from bioscience businesses & organizations in the form of lab-supplies & equipment, employee volunteer time, &, of critical importance, wages paid directly to students which total over $200k/year. BP’s program could not operate w/out the school districts & high schools that participate in comprehensive MOUs documenting respective responsibilities for supporting the program.

Several local CBOs support BP’s work as well by providing services to students. These partners include: Juma Ventures, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, Wardrobe for Success, & East Bay College Consortium, among others, as mentioned above.

Finally, BP receives financial support from individual donors, including local bioscience professionals & investors, &, as above, many professionals volunteer their services for BP as well.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

BP is in the initial stages of strategic planning, beginning w/a “Strategic Planning Prep” project through an award from the Taproot Foundation. Based on an interactive process engaging an array of BP stakeholders, this project will produce a detailed map of BP’s situation, position & potential. BP will use this map as a basis for a strategic planning process intended to chart the organization’s course, including possible expansion, over the next 3 years. BP will also utilize the findings from a 5-year outcome & literature review conducted by Gibson & Associates as well as those of the comprehensive evaluation underway by See Change, to inform future planning. This research may shift priorities but, at present, BP sees 3 main areas of growth:
• Increasing parent support: BP will launch a more intensive parental engagement process, w/an orientation at the beginning of the year & a “Parent University” offering parents guidance on supporting youth to succeed in BP, high school more generally & college.
• Increasing college-prep: BP will pilot a project targeting African American male students (who, due to myriad circumstances, face the most difficulty persevering in the program) – to provide greater levels of college prep & personal support (SAT prep, study, life & decision making skills development).
• Prudent expansion: BP will explore expansion to other schools or districts & is in discussions to partner w/Cal State University East Bay’s new STEM Education Center.

Organizationally, BP is increasing internship providers & funders across all categories.

Partnerships and Accountability
Please tell us more about how your partnership was formed and how it functions. What specific role does each partner play? What unique resources does each partner bring to the initiative?

As described above in the “Founder” section, BP (then BBEI), was founded as a result of a collaborative vision incorporated into the Development Agreement executed between the City of Berkeley & Bayer HealthCare. While still very involved w/now State Senator Hancock (formerly Berkeley Mayor), the City of Berkeley, & Bayer, BP has significantly expanded its partnership network as also detailed above in the “Partnerships” section; beyond funders, BP’s model incorporates three main partners, the first two structurally essential to the program:

School Districts & High Schools – BP has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) w/districts & schools that delineate responsibilities & goals. Districts sign off on BP’s unique curriculum, designed w/significant industry input. High schools agree to provide necessary classroom space & teachers, to coordinate w/BP staff on scheduling issues & to provide student data to BP (w/agreement from parents & students). BP provides teacher training, an in-class Teaching/Program Assistant to support the teacher of each biotech class, lab-equipment & supplies, extensive tutoring & personal support for students in addition to the internship opportunity between 11th & 12th grades.

Science-based Organizations Hosting Internships – BP’s internship hosts employ either rising seniors for paid 8-week summer internships or community college students for 20-32/hr per week year-long positions w/meaningful scientific activities (non-clerical) & dedicated supervision/mentorship from one of their employees. Academy interns receive $9/hour & BCI interns $11/hr (sometimes more than students’ parents earn). BP subsidizes placements if a partner has a meaningful internship but cannot afford to pay. Mentor-supervisors conduct interviews w/students prior to the internship (see below quote), review student performance & provide feedback on students’ progress, strengths & weaknesses. Often mentor-supervisors develop long-term relationships w/students, offering personal & professional guidance for many years. BP provides mentor-supervisor training, including a manual detailing best practices, & offers ongoing support to both students & mentors as internships progress.

I cannot express enough just how impressed we were with all of [the candidates]. The hardest part of this process is choosing just one. [We] resorted to flipping a coin to make our decision...

I have mentored two college interns in the past. One was from UC Berkeley & the other was from UC Santa Cruz…I want you to know that socially your students are on par with these university students & they are, by far, better prepared for the lab. Their hands-on experience & focused curriculum definitely give them the edge. You should all be very proud of yourselves! And the students should be proud as well! - Bayer HealthCare Mentor-Supervisor

Internship & co-op job training opportunities have included:
• Running gel electrophoresis & immunoblot techniques on proteins of interest, as well as the isolation & quantification of RNA using Taqman protocols in a cancer lab.
• Working on a plant anti-microbial project, isolating single colonies of microorganisms for preservation, & scaling up batches of culture for harvest & purification of compounds.
• Running biomarker assays using primary & detection antibodies, & performing standard curves & analysis.
• Making & scaling buffers, filtering impurities, standardizing the pH & conductivity meters for Recombinant Factor VIII manufacturing.
• Basic molecular biology techniques & DNA sequencing, starting w/DNA isolation through the construction of libraries for the Illumina sequencer.
• Learning to use a wide-array of scientific equipment including flow cytometers, micropipettes, pipettes, balances, cell counters, microscopes, fermentors, autoclaves, process equipment, depyrogenation ovens, vial washers, freeze-dryers, etc.

Many internship hosts also hire BP graduates into full-time positions once they’ve received their BCI Certificate. The USDA, for example, recently hired four BP graduates into full-time positions. Nearly every institution/company that has hired BCI graduates reports that these candidates come better prepared for the technical work required than do most 4-year college graduates. These partners willingly join in meeting w/potential BP partners to share their positive experiences.

Institutional Support from Bayer HealthCare – While not essential to the structure of BP’s model, Bayer’s support has been vital to the organization’s ongoing success. In addition to regular funding & internship positions offered annually as a result of the 30-year property Development Agreement, Bayer also provides BP approximately $74k of in-kind support each year in the form of office space & equipment (computers, phones, printers, copiers) & auxiliary services (IT support, maintenance, etc.) This in-kind support, equating to 10% of BP’s budget, allows BP to dedicate a greater percentage of resources to programming.

Additionally, BP convenes periodic ad hoc committees & groups to inform on a variety of topics. Industry representatives, program teachers (high school & community college), HR professionals & others are invited to participate in a bi-annual curriculum review. This effort ensures that BP staff & teachers are aware of industry practices & trends that potentially require curriculum modifications. Examples include: a current move away from needing candidates to fill biotech manufacturing jobs (due to moving those jobs offshore) to a greater need for research support technicians; the need to strengthen participants’ math & English skills as industry reps report that more candidates (in general, not just BP students) lack adequate skills in these areas. Partners also advise on potential new funding streams, including new companies to approach, as well as helping to influence other companies & institutions to partner w/BP by providing internships & hiring its BCI graduates, as noted above.

How are you building in accountability for students' successful STEM learning outcomes? Please provide a summary and examples.

BP’s entire program is oriented around students’ successful STEM learning outcomes (& includes crucial & extensive personal & basic skills support to strengthen STEM learning).

BP’s four semester-long biotech high school classes (Biotech 1-4) feature an industry-driven curriculum (to ensure students are learning marketable skills) that emphasizes interactive laboratory experience & hands-on technical skills development. With exciting class work & industry/research-oriented speakers who demonstrate to students the real-world significance of what they are learning, students grasp the relevance of their coursework & are motivated to stay engaged. During the two-year Academy, students utilize tools & techniques from the bioscience industry to prepare media, grow & maintain cell cultures, & conduct experiments in molecular biology & biochemistry. Courses focus on the concepts & skills necessary for employment in bioscience laboratories, production facilities & healthcare settings. BP’s program constantly evolves to keep pace w/current industry practices, needs & trends; in the 2009-2010 school year BP added a Green Bioscience unit including a biofuel research experiment.

Accountability for STEM learning outcomes occurs throughout BP’s programs. In the words of one of BP’s teachers:
"I think we are unusual in the public school setting because we require students to demonstrate 80% mastery of scientific concepts as well as laboratory techniques…. Students are accountable for learning...& must come for tutorials during lunch or after school if they fall below our expectations & only then after this additional support can they retest. Our program provides free tutoring in both chemistry & biotech but students must be willing to take advantage of it.

We also require 90% attendance in preparation for a successful summer & internship experience. They are expected to treat this class more like a job in some respects. I expect a personal call if a student is not going to attend class. Students & parents also sign a contract w/this understanding. Parents are informed if students are not meeting expectations in an effort [to] have additional support for student success."

BP has also established the following accountability measures:
High School Biotech Academy
-Periodic in-class assessments & projects
-Performance Improvement Agreements requiring participation in extra tutoring & submitting revised classwork
-Mock Interviews & evaluations for internship preparation
-Internship Learning Objectives, Daily Journal Reflections, Performance Reviews
-Evaluations & Site Visits by BP Board & Staff
-Student Internship poster assignment: students display what they learn, in consultation w/mentor-supervisors, & must also present their poster in a judged competition
-Student evaluations at graduation from the Biotech Academy

Community College Bioscience Career Institute
-requirement to turn in weekly study outlines
-weekly submission of daily journal describing coursework & internship learning, challenges & achievements
-test, quiz & homework tracking
-feedback from tutors & professors
-Co-op job Learning Objectives, Daily Journal Reflections, Performance Evaluations & Site Visits

In order to advance in the program students must maintain their STEM grades. Specifically, in order to continue into the internship after their junior year, students must maintain a B average in the semester Junior class, Biotech 2. To proceed into the BCI program, students must have earned at least a C in algebra & C chemistry, a B in Biotech 3 & 4, & must place into at least Algebra in their pre-college math assessment. Students are also held accountable for their STEM learning outcomes w/in their internships through regular evaluations & periodic site visits from BP Staff & Board members to observe how students are performing in the workplace.


Investment, Human Resources/Talent, Marketing/Media, Research/Information, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add needs that may not be listed.

In order to sustain current programs & expand, BP requires additional financial investment, particularly in light of uncertain public sector funding, as well as additional headcount. BP would welcome resources related to marketing/media in our efforts to increase awareness about BP’s model. BP is always open to collaboration & networking & welcomes innovative ideas about how to strengthen programs. BP constantly needs mentors for internships. While BP has a pro bono legal advisor, reductions in other administrative operating costs (e.g., accounting, financial advising) mean more funding would be available for programs. We would also like to engage new partners who would provide no-fee STEM tutoring, personal counseling & alumni job placement.


Research/Information, Collaboration/Networking, Innovation/Ideas, Mentorship.

Please use this space to elaborate on your selection above and/or to add offers that may not be listed.

As a leading pioneer in STEM linked learning programming for close to two decades, BP has amassed a significant knowledge base about working w/its target population & creating an effective network of partners in support of both academic & vocational program elements. Our students, graduates & mentors become program ambassadors, having gained experience in speaking to funders & potential funders, elected officials, evaluators, & as recruiters presenting to parents & students. BP has provided guidance & program materials to other orgs seeking to implement internship, linked learning &/or industry partnership programs. BP would be happy to share information w/others & to collaborate/network in alignment w/our mission & organizational resources.