Navy Yard Skills Initiative Graduates Second Life Science Class with Iovance Biotherapeutics

by Navy Yard
April 1, 2024

A newly minted group of life science professionals completed the Biomedical Technician Training Program: Aseptic Technician training and received certificates of completion during a ceremony in the Iovance Biotherapeutics iCTC (Cell Therapy Center) at the Navy Yard March 22.

After 24 weeks of dedicated work, 12 Philadelphians officially completed the training that prepared them for careers in one of the fastest growing sectors in the Philadelphia region.

“It’s a proud moment for the Navy Yard to see the successful completion of our 11th Navy Yard Skills Initiative cohort, which has now connected nearly 120 Philadelphians with well-paying careers at Navy Yard companies,” said Kate McNamara, PIDC’s Senior Vice President at the Navy Yard. “This is the second life science program to be completed with Iovance Biotherapeutics – a leader in cell and gene therapy, not only in the region but the country. Through these strategic partnerships with the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, The Wistar Institute, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Iovance Biotherapeutics, we are able to create a workforce development model that can not only meet the needs of Philadelphia’s life science companies but also create life-changing opportunities for Philadelphians who may have never thought a career in the biotech industry was even a possibility.”

This collaborative program, which is a first of its kind in the region, was modeled on Wistar’s successful Biomedical Technician Training (BTT) Pre-apprenticeship Program for community college students and focused on an underserved adult population – adults with a GED or high school diploma.

Cohort graduates now have the opportunity to be connected to employment at Iovance Biotherapeutics earning $25/hour as aseptic manufacturing technicians. The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and Wistar teams will provide guidance, resources, and continued support to the graduates who do not receive employment offers to ensure they can land positions at other local life science organizations.

For program graduate Sallay Thollie, a 22-year-old resident from Southwest Philadelphia, she applied for the program because she was looking for internships and opportunities that involved healthcare and stem related skills and when she saw the opportunity quickly applied. Prior to joining the program, she worked as a receptionist at a rehabilitation center and a student library assistant.

Sallay Thollie, participant in the Navy Yard Skills Initiative Biomedical Technician Training Program, speaks at the Certificate Awards Ceremony Iovance Biotherapeutics iCTC (Cell Therapy Center) at the Navy Yard March 22.

“Through my 24 weeks in the program, I learned about the good documentation practices, cleanroom behavior mindsets, and the machines that allow for a successful final product. I also built a sense of accomplishment and understanding of how it’s easy to focus and work efficiently when you are proud of the work you do, especially when it’s an effort to heal another individual.”

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker also attended the ceremony to show her support and congratulate the students while telling them to inspire others to take advantage of opportunities like Biomedical Technician Training Program. “I hope you feel special, because you’ve earned access to something that puts you in another space and place in our City… You’re doing work that’s saving lives, transformative work. But you can’t just be successful. You’ve got to go back to the people that are like you who’ve never even thought about the industry, because they didn’t even know that it exists. You’ve got to say to them, ‘Do, what I did, you can do what I did.”

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker addresses the graduating class of the Navy Yard Skills Initiative Biomedical Technician Training Program at the Iovance Biotherapeutics iCTC (Cell Therapy Center) at the Navy Yard March 22.

“We’re thrilled to see another successful cohort with Iovance Biotherapeutics, The Wistar Institute, PIDC’s Navy Yard Skills Initiative, and the Chamber of Commerce,” said Cait Garozzo, Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. “It is through tenacious partnership–with participants, the employer, and our programming partners–that we are all able to share in the success of this moment and look forward to doing it again this summer. We are exceptionally proud of the efforts the graduates have put in to realizing their success.”

“We are so proud of this second cohort of the BTT Program for Adults Living and Learning in Philadelphia (ALL in PHL) in partnership with the Skills Initiative and Iovance Biotherapeutics, and we look forward to continuing our work to prepare a diverse and skilled workforce to grow the life science industry in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Kristy Shuda McGuire, Wistar Institute dean of Biomedical Studies in the Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center.

“On behalf of everyone at the Chamber, I offer my heartfelt congratulations and thanks to the graduates of the Biomedical Technician Training Program with Iovance. I’m grateful for your hard work and the ways you are contributing to discovery in our region’s life sciences ecosystem,” said Nikki Pumphrey, Vice President, Talent and Workforce, the Chamber. “The partner organizations implementing this program have demonstrated the exceptional collaboration for which Greater Philadelphia is known, and are ensuring the growth, inclusivity, and strength of our region’s talent pool now and into the future.”

“We hope these collaborations will serve as a model to build deep, diverse life sciences talent pipelines across Greater Philadelphia and beyond,” said Anne Brooks, Senior Vice President, US Commercial, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc.

Biomedical Technician Training Program: Aseptic Technician Overview
The 24-week paid training program began with 10 weeks of evening classes at The Wistar Institute focused on preparing participants with a foundation in cellular and molecular biology as applicable to the life science industry. After the first 10 weeks, participants took part in a full-time, hands-on laboratory orientation at The Wistar Institute before transitioning to externships at the Iovance iCTC (Cell Therapy Center) at the Navy Yard.

Aseptic manufacturing technicians are responsible for maintaining a sterile lab environment, assembling sterile products, stocking supplies, and documenting processes of biomedical manufacturers in supporting the creation of cell therapies.

This cohort was made possible through strong support of Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), in which PIDC received a $525,000 grant for its Navy Yard Skills Initiative and a $100,000 commitment from Ensemble/Mosaic’s Navy Yard Building Better Foundation.

Navy Yard Skills Initiative

PIDC’s Navy Yard Workforce Skills Initiative creates training programs that connect talented Philadelphia residents to permanent employment with Navy Yard employers. PIDC recognizes the importance of connecting talented workers to Navy Yard employers and has partnered with the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative to increase stability and economic opportunity for working Philadelphians. PIDC and WPSI partner to run year-round, cohort-based, jobs-driven training models that harness the hiring power of Navy Yard employers, while cultivating talent from Philadelphia.