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HCC breaks ground in field of biotechnology with new programs

June 23, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Community College announced Friday that it will offer biotechnology programs starting in the fall.

The school will offer both certificate and degree programs in biotechnology in an effort to respond to an increased demand for biotechnology workers, HCC President Guy Altieri said.

"This is going to make Washington County a serious player in a widely expanding and almost limitless area," Altieri said.

The announcement of the new programs came during a groundbreaking ceremony for HCC's addition to its Technical Innovation Center. The addition will include 11 private laboratories that will be rented out to startup biotech and life science firms. HCC students will have opportunities to work as interns in the "wet labs," said Melanie Ulrich, the head of HCC's biotechnology program.

"It's a great opportunity because internships are so important to get in the door in this field," Ulrich said.

Biotechnology - the science of using living organisms to improve other products and processes - can be used to improve food, clean up waste, produce fertility drugs and antibiotics, and design drought-resistant plants, among other things, Ulrich said.

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"This is such a rapidly growing area," said Ulrich, who noted that biotechnology is being studied as a way to improve genetic testing. "We're finding new uses for biotechnology constantly."

The school's biotechnology program will start in the fall semester with an Introduction to Biotechnology course. That will be followed by Cell Biology in the spring 2008 semester, Discovery Research in fall 2008 and Biomanufacturing in fall 2009.

The groundbreaking was attended by the Washington County Commissioners, County Administrator Gregory Murray and state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who said the labs will "brighten the future of Washington County."

"We already have a lot of people moving into the area because of biotech advancements in Frederick County," Munson said. "To finally get a biotech lab in Washington County and be able to compete with Frederick for biotech funding is huge."

The construction of the labs will cost $1.3 million, said Chris Marschner, director of the Technical Innovation Center. The cost was split equally between the county and two state agencies - the Maryland Technology Development Corporation and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The labs are scheduled to be completed by spring 2008.

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