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Industrial Internships in Biotechnology

To ensure that trainees experience the challenges of the types of scientific problems associated with the development of biotechnology product candidates, all trainees are also expected to complete an industrial internship (3–6-months) at a pharmaceutical, vaccine or biotechnology company unless they have had significant previous experience in such an environment. Trainees are expected to fulfill this internship requirement as soon as possible during their appointment as trainees. These industrial internships enhance their knowledge of biotechnology related companies as well as promoting student/faculty collaborations with industrial scientists. In our experience, students who complete their industrial internships show significant growth in their scientific maturity and professionalism. The program directors, the steering committee, and the faculty mentor help and guide the trainee to find a suitable site for the trainee's internship. Every effort is made to select an internship environment that will complement the trainee's research interests and his/her career, goals and objectives.

All trainees without exception completed their industrial internships (3–6 months) in small to large biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Companies where trainees did industrial internships include Genentech, Hospira, Amgen, Sanofi Pasteur, Gilead Sciences, and Becton Dickson. As shown in Figure 2, the majority of the trainees (59%) completed their internship in a medium-to-large size biotechnology company. A small percentage of the trainees completed their internship in large pharmaceutical companies (9%). Approximately equal numbers of trainees did their internship in small biotechnology (18%) and small pharmaceutical (14%) companies. The impact of industrial internships has been very positive for the trainees and the industrial mentors. As an example, Andrew McShan said of his experience as an intern at Genentech, “I just recently returned from my internship with Dr. John Wang at Genentech in South San Francisco, CA. I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed my experience. It showed me a lot about the industry, and new ways of thinking about different types of scientific problems (for example, drug product formulations and the problems encountered with getting those to the market and keeping them there), as well as taught me how to be a better independent scientist and learn new techniques. It was an opportunity that many of my peers in the Molecular Biosciences/Biochemistry department do not get to experience so I'm extremely grateful for it. All together the Biotechnology Training Grant really helped shape my graduate studies in unique and beneficial ways that I will carry with me throughout my scientific career. Additionally, I'm currently writing up a manuscript on my data acquired by me during my internship that we're going to submit to a respectable biotechnology related journal, which I think is a rare occurrence that I'm excited about.”

We also received a very positive comment from Dr. John Wang (Jan. 5th, 2015), who is a group leader at Genentech where several of our students have done their internships, “I would like to let you know that Andrew did a fantastic job during the past three months here. Before he left, he finished two 60-page technical reports, and, based on those, is in preparation of a manuscript for publication. These NIH training grantees are outstanding. We have had great experiences with Daniel Kim and Andrew. I may want to hire another one starting in February. I may contact the other one you recommended, Lorena Antunez.” As a result of the experiences of the past trainees, two other trainees have recently completed their internships at Genentech with a very positive experience. The Co-PIs and Steering Committee continuously help to place trainees into suitable internship sites.


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