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Harris-Stowe State University will offer a Biotechnology Certificate to provide its students with skills to pursue independent research positions, biotechnology related jobs, and graduate degrees, the school has announced.

Students will be offered 11 hours of required courses, and then they can select an Elective Advanced Course Pathway that allows them to focus on training on an advanced topic.

Students will conduct an independent research project in their elective advanced laboratory course under the guidance of an instructor.

According to an HSSU release, the biotechnology pathway “will provide a formative educational experience, bolster students STEM resume and prepare them to succeed in a laboratory career.”

The biotechnology world is searching for formulas to increase diversity.

Each year, 18% of undergraduate students graduate with a STEM degree, and only 2% are Black. 

In addition, a 2017 study by the trade journal Nature Biotechnology found that only 3% of executive biotech leadership roles are held by African-Americans and 4% by Latinos/Hispanics, despite representing 13% and 18% of the population respectively. 

Women comprise 50% of entry-level roles in biotech, yet a 2018 survey found only 20% of women hold leadership positions, and just 10% serve in board roles 

Seven in 10 biotechs now list diversity and inclusion in their value statements or as a priority, according to a new report from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). This is up from 46% in 2019. The survey included 100 respondents, representing a separate BIO member company, answering based on data they officially collect only. The sample between 2020 and 2019 was similar. 

“This past year demonstrated how the biotechnology industry can step up to a challenge,” said BIO President and CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath, M.D.

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 “The survey provides the information we, as an industry, need to develop programming that supports progress for diversity and inclusion.”

A more recent achievement is that of a 34-year-old black doctor named Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a senior research fellow and scientific lead for the coronavirus vaccines and immunopathogenesis team in the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Corbett has played a key role in the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that is now being administered across the U.S. and around the world. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where she was a Meyerhoff Scholar, which is a program that helps to develop minorities and women in science through mentorship and curriculum. 

Upon graduating with a PhD in microbiology and immunology, Dr. Corbett joined the NIH’s Vaccine Research Centre in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. It was her ability to apply the knowledge that she and her colleagues had gained in the last six years that enabled them to respond quickly to the COVID-19 virus and rapidly develop the vaccine in collaboration with Moderna.

In December 2020, after NASDAQ filed a request with the SEC to make board diversity mandatory for companies listed on the index, McMurry-Heath, a long-time advocate for greater diversity in biotech and for greater healthcare access for underserved communities, stated, “The Actions taken by NASDAQ are bold, long overdue and will serve as inspiration for Boardrooms across the nation. The biotech industry has been, and remains committed to promoting inclusivity, by accelerating gender, racial, ethnic and LGBTQ representation.

“In fact, many of our companies already exceed some of these requirements while we understand more work needs to be done. The goal of inclusion does more than just ‘level the playing field’ it makes good business sense and helps organizations grow and prosper. BIO is very supportive of NASDAQ’s proposal and looks forward to assisting with the implementation of this initiative in our sector.”

Visit hssu.edu for more information and a listing of courses.

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