Several investors in the Cell & Gene Therapy and Connected Health Initiative and participants in the newly formed Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative, a group of cell and gene therapy companies and academic research labs in the cell and gene therapy space working to address the industry’s future talent needs, participated in a virtual Life Sciences & Biotech Career Fair on February 25. Among them were Adaptimmune; Amicus Therapeutics; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Passage Bio; Spark Therapeutics, Inc.; University of Pennsylvania; and WuXi Advanced Therapies.

The event was hosted by Campus Philly, an organization that serves as a resource for the area’s college students and recent graduates, and introduced students to the region’s many life sciences and biotech career opportunities, including the rapidly expanding field of cell and gene therapy. The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and its regional CEO Council for Growth coordinated the participation of the Collaborative in the career fair, and were presenting sponsors of the event.

As part of the program, students could join a conversation with two young professionals working in the industry. Carrie LaGreca, manager of cell manufacturing at Adaptimmune, described her experience working at the T-cell therapy company in the Navy Yard. Tosha Nesmith, a clinical trial assistant with CSL Behring, gave an overview of working with a pharmaceutical company that conducts clinical research for clinical trials. Campus Philly’s Ayannah Kamryn moderated the discussion, which also focused on the education that started each panelist’s career path.

LaGreca, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Temple University, said, “I received a bachelor’s in biology there, and it really did give me a foundational understanding of biology to kind of build upon lab techniques, assays, cell culture, technical writing, that really kind of led the way for me to hit the ground running when I started within a laboratory program at WuXi AppTec.” She later joined Adaptimmune as a way to see the direct patient impact.

“I did undergrad at Philadelphia University,” Nesmith said. “It’s now called Thomas Jefferson University, and I’m currently enrolled. In the fall, I’ll be getting my master’s degree in business, pursing an MBA,” she said. “What started me in this field was my health science major when I went to Philadelphia University.”

The participants also described their day-to-day work, and shared what are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in the industry, including the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives. They also answered audience questions on topics including educational requirements, the differences between working in a small versus a large company, and what it’s been like to work during the pandemic. You can read a Campus Philly blog post recapping some of the questions and answers. It also links to the approximately 40-minute conversation.

“Participating in experiences such as Campus Philly’s Life Sciences and Biotech Career Fair is an excellent way for the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative members to build awareness of the career opportunities in our region as we work to address the talent needs on the horizon,” said Patricia Day, manager for Leadership Engagement at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, who is leading the effort on the Life Science Talent Pipeline Collaborative. “I’m glad our future workforce had the opportunity to talk directly with these hiring companies, as well as hear about the career paths of two professionals educated in Philadelphia universities and working in the region in their chosen fields. It was also exciting to hear Carrie and Tosha’s stories about their interest in work that contributes to improving and saving lives. That’s what these careers offer,” she said.

By encouraging students to study, explore, live and work in the region, Campus Philly helps fuel economic growth. Marissa Christie, vice president of Student Engagement at Campus Philly said, “The Life Sciences and Biotech Career Fair was a huge success for Campus Philly in every way possible. Nearly 200 students and recent graduates from 60+ schools attended, resulting in more than 500 conversations with regional employers.” She added, “It’s clear that there is immense interest in this growing industry in Philadelphia, and events like Campus Philly’s virtual career fairs give every college student the opportunity to ask questions, learn about different careers, and make connections that will hopefully result in staying in Philadelphia after graduation. Over 70% of attendees were students of color and nearly 40% identified as first-generation college students. This event not only connected talent with companies that were hiring, it also fueled inclusive economic growth for Greater Philadelphia.”