President Richard J. Lessard with Mayor Wu
University News | 2/15/2024

MCPHS Awarded a $1.37 Million Life Sciences Grant from the City of Boston

By Dana Barbuto

Dean of the School of Professional Studies Carol Stuckey, Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Caroline Zeind, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and President Richard J. Lessard

President Richard J. Lessard with Mayor Wu
Dean of the School of Professional Studies Carol Stuckey, Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost Caroline Zeind, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and President Richard J. Lessard

The money will support the University’s efforts with Bioversity to develop and implement training and education programs to connect Boston residents to life sciences jobs.

The Neighborhood Jobs Trust of the City of Boston awarded Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) a $1.37 million grant that will bolster the University’s educational partnership with Bioversity to train city residents seeking life sciences jobs and new career pathways.

The grant, announced by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, will support MCPHS’s and Bioversity’s “Biotech Career Foundations,” an eight-week certificate training program designed to prepare students for entry-level scientific operational roles in local life sciences labs and companies.

“Our University stands at the forefront of life sciences practice and education. This grant is an example of higher education working closely with industry, nonprofit, and government to build a highly skilled and more diverse workforce that meets a critical need in an ever-evolving industry,” said Richard J. Lessard, President of MCPHS.

MCPHS became Bioversity’s first educational partner last November. University leaders from the School of Pharmacy, School of Healthcare Business and Technology, and School of Professional Studies designed the curriculum for the first cohort of trainees, who will learn at the old Boston Globe headquarters on Morrissey Boulevard in a state-of-the-art 4,000-square foot lab and classroom space. A groundbreaking was held on July 25, 2023.

The program launched in January 2024 with 20 trainees. Bioversity received more than 120 applicants to join this first cohort. It plans to graduate 100 people per year and provide opportunities for them to pursue well-paid, entry-level jobs in scientific operations.

“The life sciences sector has a lot of jobs and not enough qualified people to fill them. MCPHS already maintains a robust network of contacts in the life sciences industry to support workforce development, and we’ve been able to help turn Bioversity’s vision into a reality,” said Caroline Zeind, PharmD, RPh, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

As the first higher-educational partner for Bioversity’s inaugural training program, key faculty have spent the past 12 months collaborating to design a curriculum that will meet industry needs. The result is part of a broader effort by the new MCPHS Center for Life Sciences to meet a unique moment of opportunity in the region and beyond. University faculty members and graduate students will be teaching in the Bioversity program.

“MCPHS distinguished itself with our ability to design and deliver programs quickly in response to employer needs. Our faculty members are able to collaborate easily with external organizations to deliver highly customized, outcome-based programs,” said Carol Stuckey, Dean of the School of Professional Studies.

The $1.37 million workforce training grant is funded through the city’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust. The money will be used to purchase supplies such as textbooks, online safety certifications, software and to pay facility operation costs, including equipment maintenance. A portion of the grant will supply trainees with a $500 weekly stipend to offset childcare and transportation expenses. In total, the city handed out $4.7 million to seven recipients under its Life Sciences Workforce Initiative, which aims to support Mayor Wu’s goal of 1,000 new Boston residents employed in the life sciences by the end of 2025.

“This first set of organizational awardees will train our students and our residents for specific in-demand industry positions, building career pathways that empower our communities and particularly those residents without four-year degrees to immediately step into these jobs with a focus on lifting up workers of color, immigrants, women and families, right in Boston,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

Eighteen of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies have a presence in Massachusetts, and the state’s life sciences industry is still expanding, with more than 1,000 biotechnology companies in Greater Boston alone. One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is filling open positions. The state’s biopharma trade association, MassBio, expects the sector will need thousands of new workers in the next few years. Initiatives like Bioversity will help to keep up with the industry’s anticipated growth while creating new opportunities for populations traditionally left out of the life sciences workforce.

“MCPHS’s vision of bringing economic opportunity to more people across Massachusetts and their dedication to developing an intensive, hands-on curriculum has put Bioversity in a position of strength at our launch,” said Zach Stanley, Executive Director of Bioversity. “As a brand-new non-profit, our goal of graduating 100 people and placing them into full-time jobs is ambitious. With MCPHS’s staff and instructors’ expertise I’m confident we are going to reach that goal.”

Bioversity is a Massachusetts incorporated non-profit with pending 501c3 status launched by MassBio. It was formed to implement industry-aligned, expanded workforce training initiatives. Bioversity creates training pathways and employer connections for underrepresented populations and individuals traditionally left out of the life sciences to quickly propel them into well-paying jobs and lifelong careers.

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