Middlesex Community College is moving ahead with plans to build a state-of-the-art biotechnology facility on the Lowell campus. The project will be supported by a recent $3 million capital grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC).

Middlesex President James C. Mabry said the new facility will enable the college to further enhance and support its pioneering Biotechnology Technician degree and certificate programs. “Biotech is an economic engine in our region and we welcome opportunities to better further align our programs of study with industry standards,” said Mabry.

MCC’s Biotechnology Program is highly respected and holds a Platinum endorsement – the highest rating – from the Massachusetts Life Science Education Consortium. The first community-college biotech program, it was established in 1990.

Dr. Mariluci Bladon founded, and still coordinates the program, and has nurtured its growth. At first, the program enrolled just 25 students; it now boasts almost 200. “Enrollment in MCC’s Biotechnology programs has doubled since 2005,” added Kathleen Sweeney, MCC Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM).

Under Bladon’s guidance, most of her Biotech students complete a certificate, are placed in paid internships, complete an associate degree, and transfer to earn a bachelor’s degrees.

Alum Robert Kenyon (Class of 1995), Biogen’s Vice President of North American Manufacturing Operations, followed this pathway and has enjoyed a successful 23-year biotech career. He recently returned to campus to address the Class of 2017 as Commencement Speaker and was presented the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Kenyon earned a Biotechnology Technician Certificate in 1995 and an associate degree in 1997. In 2000, he earned a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from Boston University. During his commencement address, Kenyon praised Professor Bladon for her devotion to the program and her students.

“I would especially like to thank Dr. Mariluci Bladon for her awe-inspiring leadership and dedication to the Biotechnology Program for so many years,” said Kenyon. “Without her passion and commitment, I know very clearly that I would not be standing here today. …She is truly an amazing educator with a passion that few bring to their profession.”

Kenyon enrolled at MCC as part of a federal program for dislocated defense workers. At the conclusion of the six-month program, he was placed in an internship on the manufacturing floor at Biogen. Eleven months later, he was hired full time, working the overnight shift.

There were 30 people working in manufacturing at that time. Today, Kenyon supervises Biogen’s manufacturing facilities and general operations sites in Research Triangle Park, N.C., home to approximately 1,300 employees.

“Middlesex really set me up well,” said Kenyon. “I was in school learning concepts about the business in the classrooms and in the labs, and then going to work at night and seeing it all in practice. I really took to manufacturing – the intersection of biology and engineering.”

MCC’s new biotechnology facility, to be located on the fifth floor of the Talbot Science Building on the Lowell campus, will include a combined lecture room/laboratory, a Class 10,000 clean room, gowning area, and prep room. These and other upgrades will significantly expand the college’s capacity to prepare students to meet the workforce needs of the life-sciences industry.

For more information about MCC’s new biotechnology facility, contact Kathleen Sweeney, Dean of STEM, at sweeneyk@middlesex.mass.edu.

For further information about the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, visit www.masslifesciences.com.