biotechDerek Moates had an extensive background in business as well as science, but he didn’t have the industry experience on how the two concepts work together to produce usable products and make a successful company. He found his answer when he entered what was then the newly created biotechnology graduate program in the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Today he is working at one of the top biotech/communications firms in New York, N.Y. thanks, he said, to the biotechnology program.

“Education, while providing support, combined with real industry opportunities is the key to producing successful students who can hit the ground running without skipping a beat,” said Moates, assistant account executive at Russo Partners, LLC. “Being able to communicate with so many CEO’s in the Alabama biotechnology industry made my transition into the executive world where I deal exclusively with C-level management easier and stress free.”

Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., director for the biotechnology program, said the classes were designed for students to essentially wear a lab coat and a business suit at the same time. Students get the opportunity to work on real projects with the UAB Research Foundation during the three semesters of course work.

“These students develop technology and products that are marketable,” said Nugent. “Many researchers are great at doing research or inventing products, but they don’t have the business sense. Our students have to know how to get the product from the bench to the market.”

Nugent is recruiting for the third class of the program and is looking for students with a biology or science background.

“We can teach the business side as it applies to biotechnology, but science is harder,” said Nugent. “They need to know how to speak the language of biology, chemistry and genetics to be successful in this industry.”

She said she sees the demand growing in the workforce for this type of training.

“The time it takes to transition from a product from the bench to the market is on average 20 years,” said Nugent. “Today’s biotechnology companies have matured to the point that there is a growing demand in the workplace for employees specifically trained for this industry.”

Tino Unlap, Ph.D., associate professor for the program, said careers in this field goes across the board from researchers, marketers, sales people, public relations, business development, health care policy, forensics, defense, drug development, teaching and regulatory positions.

“They are generating products that other industries depend on,” said Unlap. “It’s not just the health care industry, its defense and computer science.”

Recent graduates have received jobs at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala., Omega Biotech, Inc. in Atlanta and Alpha Tec Systems in Vancouver, Wash.

Nugent said the word has spread about their program. Companies are even calling the school to ask about students for potential jobs. Moates said it’s because of this program, he landed his dream job.

“This program has truly changed my entire life and it helped position me to begin an executive level career,” said Moates. “UAB can provide everything it took me years to build through my own determination with this well designed and ever evolving biotechnology master’s program.”

Students interested in the program should contact Unlap at (205) 934-7382. More information is available on the programs’ page.