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.