The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and The Wistar Institute are collaborating once again with support from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia to bring their award-winning expansion of Wistar’s Biomedical Technician Training Program to a new partner, VintaBio, Inc. This workforce development training will support the talent needs of the rapidly growing cell and gene therapy manufacturing organization.

In the spring of 2023, VintaBio emerged from stealth with its newly appointed CEO, Dr. David Radspinner, $64 million in funding, and a purpose-built gene therapy manufacturing facility in The Navy Yard. Building on this success, the Biomedical Technician Training Program: Lab Technician will prepare graduates with at least a high school equivalency for rewarding roles with a starting pay of $25/hour at VintaBios’s gene manufacturing site in the Navy Yard.

“Our partnership with VintaBio marks an exciting era of Life Science development in Philadelphia. We have proven that this cohort-based training model works for larger scale companies and institutions and we are excited to show its efficacy for growing companies like VintaBio,” shared Cait Garozzo, Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. “Where other companies at a similar stage may focus on degreed talent, VintaBio is widening their talent pool to include candidates who successfully complete our training program. Hiring local talent is advantageous at every stage of a company life cycle and we applaud VintaBio for recognizing this and taking action.”

“VintaBio’s focus is improving access to critical life-saving gene therapies through simplification and cost reduction of gene therapy manufacturing while greatly improving the reliability of these processes. I’m excited to join forces with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, PIDC and Wistar to develop and hire top talent for our fast-growing team and generate rewarding career opportunities for our community. As the need for skills across Life Sciences continues to be at an all-time high we are proud to share the responsibility of building a pipeline of talent to produce improved and more economic outcomes for advanced therapies.”said Dr. David Radspinner, CEO of VintaBio.

“Wistar — together with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, the Chamber of Commerce, the Navy Yard (PIDC), and VintaBio — believe in the strength of our life science ecosystem. To further grow our regional workforce, we are committed to connecting individuals to careers in Greater Philadelphia to support innovation and success in the life sciences: from biomedical research to biotechnology and cell and gene therapies,” said Dr. Kristy Shuda McGuire, Wistar Institute dean of Biomedical Studies in the Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center. “This most recent iteration expands Wistar’s Biomedical Technician Training (BTT) Pre-apprenticeship Program even further as we continue to train Philadelphians for the specialized workforce our sector needs and connect them to opportunities for career advancement.”

This recruitment will be the third Biomedical Technician Training Program cohort for PIDC’s Navy Yard Skills Initiative (NYSI), a workforce development training program created with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative to address the talent needs of the employers located at the Navy Yard.

“We are proud to be able to bring a third Biomedical Technician Training Program cohort to the Navy Yard through our partnership with The Wistar Institute, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, the Chamber of Commerce, and now VintaBio,” said Kate McNamara, PIDC’s Senior Vice President at the Navy Yard. “This program continues to create equitable access to meaningful career opportunities in one of the region’s fastest-growing sectors by lowering the barrier of entry. Our previous partnerships with Iovance Biotherapeutics connected 10 Philadelphians with full-time employment and currently have another 12 in the training program, and since the Navy Yard Skills Initiative began in 2020 more than 100 Philadelphians have been placed in full-time positions with great Navy Yard companies.”

“From the successful launch of the pilot Biomedical Technician Training Program cohort with Iovance in summer 2022, to a follow-up second cohort with Iovance announced in 2023, and now this third cohort with VintaBio as an employer partner, this program is meeting so many of the Chamber’s workforce development goals,” said Claire Greenwood, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness for the Chamber. “The Chamber is grateful to Wistar, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, PIDC, the program’s funders, and employer partners for their commitment to collaborating to grow our region’s cell and gene therapy talent pool.”

Program Information

The 22-week paid training program begins at The Wistar Institute with 10 weeks of evening classes focused on foundation curriculum in cellular and molecular biology followed by a full-time hands-on laboratory orientation before transitioning to a 10-week externship at VintaBio’s 22,500-square-foot purpose-built facility designed to streamline cell and gene therapy development and manufacturing.

The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative will support program participants by offering professional development courses, networking opportunities, and coaching.

Select candidates who complete the program will have the opportunity to interview for a full-time position at VintaBio, with a starting pay of $25/hour.

Recruitment applications for the program, which will launch online on January 18, 2024,  on The Navy Yard’s website (navyyard.org/skills) and continue through January 30, 2024. The program start date is February 13, 2024, and concludes in July 2024.

To apply, candidates must be a Philadelphia resident, 18 years of age or older, with a high school diploma or GED, and test at a 12th-grade level in reading, literacy, and math. The program aims to place ten graduates at VintaBio.

About the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative

The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) is one of the nation’s most successful workforce development organizations. For 10 years, WPSI has solidified its role as one of the highest-performing workforce intermediaries in the country by building customized talent solutions that bridge the divide between unemployed Philadelphians seeking opportunity and employers seeking talent. WPSI focuses on professional development and career coaching for adults. For more information visit www.philadelphiaskills.org.

About The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute, the first independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, marshals the talents of an international team of outstanding scientists through a culture of biomedical collaboration and innovation. Wistar scientists are focused on solving some of the world’s most challenging and important problems in the fields of cancer, infectious disease, and immunology. Wistar has been producing groundbreaking advances in world health for more than a century, consistent with its legacy of leadership in biomedical research and a track record of life-saving contributions in immunology and cell biology. Wistar’s Hubert J. P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center brings together education programs for high school, undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows, with its expanding pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training, including the Fox Biomedical Research Technician (BRT) Apprenticeship. For more information, visit the Wistar website.

About VintaBio

VintaBio‘s development and manufacturing team brings over one century of experience in the cell and gene therapy space. The team has played key roles in the development of the most advanced therapies on the market today. Located in Philadelphia – the epicenter of cell and gene therapy innovation – VintaBio specializes in developing and manufacturing consistent, high-quality viral vectors, a vital and currently underserved area of CGT development. The company was founded in 2016 by Junwei Sun and Dr. Shangzhen Zhou, who manufactured the first lentiviral vector used to deliver the life-saving treatment for Emily Whitehead at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Junwei is a co-founder of Spark Therapeutics, the University of Pennsylvania spinout that developed the first-ever FDA-approved gene therapy, Luxturna, which is marketed by biopharmaceutical giants Roche in the U.S. and Novartis in Europe. Dr. Zhou has over 30 years of experience in the gene therapy field and was on the team that developed the second-ever FDA-approved gene therapy, Zolgensma, currently marketed by Novartis in the U.S. and Europe. Led by CEO David Radspinner, previously of ILC Dover, Cytiva, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, and Thermo Fisher Scientific, VintaBio raised and deployed over $64 million in venture funding to construct a brand new state-of-the-art purpose built 22,500 square foot facility. It was completed in 2022 and specifically designed for the efficient, cost-effective manufacturing of cell and gene therapies.

About PIDC and the Philadelphia Navy Yard

PIDC is Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation. Since acquiring the 1,200-acre site from the federal government in 2000, PIDC has been the master developer and site operator of the Navy Yard. PIDC’s mission—to spur investment, support business growth, and facilitate developments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and drive growth to every corner of Philadelphia—strongly informs its strategy for the Navy Yard, where the focus is on building a cohesive community that fosters employment, innovation, and production. PIDC manages all aspects of the property’s management and development, including master planning, leasing, property management, infrastructure development, utility operation, and structuring development transactions. For more information visit www.PIDCphila.com | www.navyyard.org.

About The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s CEO Council for Growth

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s CEO Council for Growth (CEO Council) leads our region forward by envisioning a stronger, more competitive community, convening decision makers, taking action, and advocating for policies and practices that strengthen our regional economy. The CEO Council advocates through its members and engages stakeholders to enhance economic growth and prosperity in the region. We prioritize the revitalization and enhancement of our region’s talent, mobility, and innovation. The CEO Council’s Cell & Gene Therapy Initiative is leveraging Greater Philadelphia’s specialized assets to accelerate growth and promote the region as the global hub of research, talent, capital, and companies in cell & gene therapy, gene editing, and connected health. For more information visit www. Ceocouncilforgrowth.com.

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