Students often wonder how certain information they are taught is actually relevant in real life. For biology in particular, knowledge about DNA and other molecules that are too small to see may seem to be too abstract to have any actual relevance. During this event, secondary school teachers experienced first-hand how this knowledge has been used to create and entire industry.
Ireland is one of the biggest producers of life-saving biopharmaceuticals, with 9 of the 10 top biopharma companies having significant operations in Ireland. The biopharma sector is expected to offer 8,400 new highly skilled jobs in the next 4 years. Yet getting to see how these biopharmaceuticals are actually made is usually not possible for non-employees. In order to keep batches of biopharmaceutical medicals sterile, only experienced industry-personnel are allowed to access the production core. If any non-sterile particles enter the facility, batches of drugs would be lost that are worth millions. Enter the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). NIBRT is a unique facility that supports the biopharmaceutical industry by training new personnel and establishing new production processes. They have all the bioreactors and machinery that would be used in the biopharmaceutical industry. Here people can be trained without putting drugs worth millions of euro at risk.
During Science Week, we invited teachers to take part in a tour at NIBRT. During the tour, teachers explored how engineering in cell culture, protein purification and bioanalytics works on an industrial scale. Nineteen teachers from various schools took part. It was great for them to see how scientific knowledge can lead to such important applications and potentially future jobs for their own students.