Talking with Jefferson – Closing the Gap In Biologics

Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) is poised to lead students and industry professionals through the world of biologics. Dr. Ronald G. Kander, Dean of Kanbar College, Associate Provost for Applied Research, shares the inner workings of their partnership with National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) and constructing the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) training facility. There are a handful of institutions in the world addressing this emerging field. JIB will be the only U.S. facility combining GE FlexFactory Single-Use reactors and the NIBRT curriculum, which originated in Dublin, Ireland.RHJ Associates-Jefferson-Institute-for-Bioprocessing


What is the purpose of the center?
1) Education 2) Training and 3) Workforce Development. These three reasons combined will create a more predictable workforce. Some people refer to the Philadelphia region as Cell-icon Valley due to the abundance of pharmaceutical companies. However, it is one thing to have the companies and another to have a properly trained workforce.

How will the facility impact the surrounding region?
One impact not automatically clear to others, but very clear to Dr. Kander, is the effect on surrounding schools, such as Montgomery and Bucks community colleges. The idea is to give people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity in the pharmaceutical industry access to higher paying jobs with a lower education cost.


Describe how the facility’s location was determined.
Jefferson first looked at both campuses – Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia University and evaluated three choices: building a new facility, renovating an existing building or leasing a new space. Jefferson ultimately decided to lease a space off-campus due to:

  • Quick turn-around time – begin generating revenue faster
  • Lower initial cost – upfront cost was substantially lower to fit-out an existing space
  • Flexibility – option to expand the facility by leasing additional square footage offered growth potential in the same location


Jefferson also evaluated the economics of the region and created JIB where the money and customers are, which is in the middle of an international pharmaceutical company hub, Spring House Innovation Park, in Spring House, PA.

Building Components

What is the difference between biologics and small molecule chemistry manufacturing?
Small molecule chemistry drugs are produced with large, stainless steel reactors for large audiences. Biopharmaceutical drugs are produced in smaller reactors and created for very specific, smaller audiences. With small molecule chemistry, you are more concerned about the product harming the practitioner. With biologics, you are more concerned about the practitioner contaminating the product. A biopharmaceutical facility is developed with best practices for aseptic handling in mind.

Closing Remarks

Dr. Kander envisions the development of more programs nationally after the Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing is considered successful and people are confident the NIBRT curriculum can be replicated and repeated elsewhere.

Any words of advice for similar projects?
Find the right partners early in the process. In this case, Jefferson not only partnered with local companies and schools, but also alumni, NIBRT, Avison Young, MRA Group and other internal stakeholders.

You must think on two to three different time scales – this week, when the facility opens and five years into operation.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Dr. Kander has been invested in the process but will eventually pass the torch to the facility manager. Dr. Kander says he has benefited on all scales by including Project Managers, internally and externally.

Dr. Ronald G. Kander, PhD
Dean of Kanbar College, Associate Provost for
Applied Research
Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)
[email protected]