| New era for SCC's biotech, science programs
Solano Community College’s biotech manufacturing program has earned a sterling reputation for excellence, turning out graduates ready for 21st-century jobs, and on Monday faculty and students enrolled in the academic discipline will walk into a gleaming, $34.5 million, state-of-the-art structure in Vacaville to continue to enhance that reputation.
The celebratory day, the first of the 2017-18 academic year for SCC, will come a few weeks and a year after school leaders broke ground on the 38,000-square-foot project on North Village Parkway and a just few weeks after the same leaders broke ground on a new $37 million, 44,000-square-foot science building at the main Fairfield campus on Suisun Valley Road.
The projects, clearly a significant boost to the school’s educational mission and perhaps the envy of other colleges, are financed by Measure Q, the $348 million bond measure Solano County voters passed in 2012.
The school’s biotechnology manufacturing program, led by faculty member, program founder and director Jim DeKloe, offers four-year degrees in the academic course of study.
SCC, notably just across the way from biotechnology giant Genentech’s Vacaville campus, is the only Northern California institution of higher education to offer that kind of degree, Maire Morinec, dean of the School of Applied Technology and Business, noted Tuesday during a brief tour of the new building.
In an interview last year, DeKloe, who started the biotechnology program 20 years ago, said the building, with several sizable windows offering glimpses into laboratories, “will be a teaching tool in itself,” its architectural design by The Smith Group of San Francisco meant “to emulate a manufacturing facility.” It is expected to attract students and applicants from across the nation, he added.
Morinec, standing in the new building’s capacious, well-lighted lobby, echoed his comments during the tour, saying, “We’re putting science on display,” and adding about its design: “The goal of the building is to prepare students for careers in biotechnology and science.”
She said the building’s biotechnology labs are divided into four “suites” that “mirror,” in some ways, the interior working spaces of the local Genentech campus, where, DeKloe has noted, roughly one of six of the firm’s 1,300 employees are graduates of the SCC biomanufacturing program.
The suites, by their purpose, are devoted to 1) growing cell culture; 2) housing bioreactors (machines that carry out a biological reaction or process, especially on an industrial scale); 3) “recovery”; and 4) quality assurance.
“The staff and faculty are very excited,” said Morinec, a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “We’re training people to go out into the workforce.”
In the bioreactor rooms, Morinec pointed out the new, shiny metal devices, cylindrical in shape and the home of a maze of tubes, sensors and wiring, ranging in size from 3 to 20 to 100 liters.
“We will be ready come Monday morning,” she said, smiling. “Science will be on display” during the day and during night classes.
Continuing the tour, as some staff, faculty and construction workers readied rooms and set up or connected equipment, Morinec showed off faculty offices near the labs that will afford easier access for students needing to question or meet with instructors.
Inside a general chemistry lab, with new sinks and a wall-size video monitor behind the instructor’s desk, she said, “We wanted it to look clean and professional — spaces that promote learning, so they (students and faculty) can be successful.”
Biology labs are outfitted with monitors and tables for the study of human anatomy, and the classes are “already full,” noted Morinec, confirming a statement by SCC President-Superintendent Celia Esposito-Noy, who, in an interview with The Reporter last year, said, “There is a huge course demand” for biotech and other science classes at the school and lengthy wait list for entrance.
Morinec called the new building, three years in the discussion and design phase, “a real asset to the city of Vacaville and the college.”
Monday morning also will be a reminder of another SCC milestone, coming a little more than two years ago: The California Community Colleges Board of Governors announced that the school was one of just 15 community colleges, as part of a pilot program, given permission to offer baccalaureate courses of study beginning in fall 2017.
During the official groundbreaking ceremony last summer, Esposito-Noy asserted that the college was on the “cutting edge” of instruction and training for 21st-century jobs.
DeKloe, in his remarks after hers, said that “life sciences will dominate all that we do” as a society in the coming decades.
“We pioneered the (biotechnology) curriculum,” he said, noting Genentech’s Vacaville campus behind him, calling the Swiss-owned firm (Roche, the parent company) “a pioneering company.”
Biotechnology, he added, “saves people’s lives,” and confided that, some years ago, his then-young ailing son was saved “by a Genentech product.”
The building’s opening date tomorrow coincides with the start of the school’s four-year degree program in biotechnology manufacturing, a process in which scientists use living cells to produce products, rather than mixing chemicals. Technicians put cells into a medium of “cell food,” and then the cells, containing information placed in them, create medicines.
The state community college pilot programs were developed in response to legislation sponsored by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. It allowed 15 community college districts, including Solano’s, to offer baccalaureate degree programs at one of their campuses in academic fields of study or career-tech studies not offered by the California State University or University of California systems. Lower-division classes are expected to cost $46 per unit and upper-division coursework would cost an additional $84 per unit. The cost to obtain a bachelor’s degree is projected to be $10,000.
In the previous interview, DeKloe said state officials granted SCC permission to expand its biomanufacturing program in large part because of Genentech’s presence in Vacaville, the nearby academic resources of the University of California, Davis, and the already successful outcomes of SCC’s long-running program.
“We argued that we focused on the manufacturing side,” DeKloe said of the bachelor’s degree application. “We were fundamentally different.”
The 20th century was the century of physics, and “the 21st century is the century of biology,” and Vacaville’s biotech manufacturing firms and SCC likely will play a considerable role, he said.
DeKloe views the new building and course offerings as ways to contribute to Vacaville’s so-called “biotech cluster” of manufacturing firms, which includes, besides Genentech, the Janssen campus on Eubanks Drive and others, together serving synergistically as an industry-education partnership.
Also in the prior interview, DeKloe asserted that the annual revenue of Genentech’s Vacaville plant alone outpaces the state’s wine industry, generating well more than $50 billion annually.
Listing by City | Vacaville Real Estate | Fairfield Real Estate | Suisun City Real Estate | Benicia Real Estate | Vallejo Real Estate | American Canyon Real Estate | Napa Real Estate | Rio Vista Real Estate | Dixon Real Estate | Winters Real Estate | Davis Real Estate | Solano County | Napa County
Carrington Real Estate Services Licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate: BRE License # 1397744 & 01845712. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC (CMS) headquartered at 1600 South Douglass Road, Suites 110 & 200-A, Anaheim, CA 92806. NMLS Unique Identifier #2600.