Teaching the Science and Business of Biotechnology

by Monica Villavicencio, Office of Marketing and Communications

Capitalizing on its location in the region that gave birth to the global biotechnology industry, the University of San Francisco launched an interdisciplinary program that brings together the scientific expertise and business know-how needed to develop the next generation of biotech innovators. 

Designed for students with an undergraduate background in the sciences, the two-year Professional Science Master's Program in Biotechnology began enrolling last fall. The program combines rigorous molecular biology coursework with MBA-level business insight.

Home to biotech

Home to the world's largest biotechnology cluster, the Bay Area hosts more than 1,300 biotech companies, including nearly 50 in San Francisco. In recent years, the industry has added jobs, and experts expect continued growth in the foreseeable future.

"If you look at the skillset the biotech industry wants, you have science, but you also have law, business, and an understanding of the ethical and social considerations involved," said Moira Gunn, USF associate professor of business and host of National Public Radio's "BioTech Nation.

Unlike a traditional master's or doctoral degree in biology or chemistry, USF's PSM in biotechnology prepares students for a variety of biotech jobs, from conducting research to managing a laboratory or securing funding from venture capitalists. 

Intern with the biggest names in biotech

To gain hands-on experience, and in lieu of a master's thesis, PSM in biotechnology students complete internships at companies such as Genentech, Bio-Rad Laboratories, and BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Students can also participate in academic global immersion trips to the U.K., Switzerland, and Washington, D.C., to meet industry leaders and gain broader industry perspective on public policy, trade, and regulation.

Jennifer Dever, USF associate professor of biology and director of the PSM in Biotechnology Program, believes students will graduate with the background they need to tackle some of the country's biggest problems, from developing biofuels and alternative energy sources to bringing to market microbial cancer treatments.

"We want to funnel our students into jobs that help solve some of these complex problems," Dever said.

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