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  • Renée Landers, Suffolk University School of Law Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Master of Science in Law: Life Sciences program and Health and Biomedical Law Concentration
  • Bridgett Sandusky, Suffolk University School of Law Assistant Dean of Graduate Law Programs
  • Jenn Karnakis, Executive Director of the Suffolk Law Intellectual Property Center

Suffolk University Law School was proud to be the Presenting Sponsor for MassBioEd’s 7th Annual Life Sciences Workforce Conference, held earlier this year in June. This event provides a unique opportunity for industry professionals, academics, and government officials to engage in collaborative conversations on how to address the urgent challenge of building a robust and sustainable life sciences workforce. Panelists and speakers throughout the day explored the role that each sector must embrace to populate a pipeline of qualified life sciences workers for the years ahead.

Renée Landers, J.D. (far left) moderates panel, ‘Recruitment: Education to Training to Industry’.

The continuing experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on long-ignored weaknesses in the health care, public health, scientific, government, and educational infrastructures. While the life sciences and biotechnology sectors deservedly can take credit for the rapid production of vaccines and treatments based in part on a foundation of academic research, ensuring future ability to anticipate and respond to public health crises requires a workforce with multidisciplinary skills and training.

Concomitantly, the pandemic and recent public discourse about reproductive health care reveal poor public understanding of basic scientific principles. This gap in scientific literacy as well as longstanding disparities in access to health-promoting resources impeded the acceptance of vaccines and allowed disinformation and misinformation to influence the public. Recognizing that people may arrive at different views of what regulatory interventions are useful or appropriate, with such gaps in understanding, productive policy development based on accurate science is difficult. The impact of the life sciences workforce depends on the scientific literacy of the public.

These challenges demonstrate the relevance of one common refrain during the conference–the need to develop education programs starting in grade school and continuing through technical training, college and beyond to help inspire and propel students to life sciences careers. A more deliberate focus on education in science and related fields will also build better public understanding and appreciation for the role science plays in enabling daily life.

MassBioEd issued a call to action for industry to partner with government and educational institutions to encourage students of all ages to pursue education and careers in the life sciences. Communication, collaboration, and partnership are essential so that education and training programs keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry and regulatory landscape.

One of the missions of MassBioEd has been to develop a variety of educational programs to engage and excite middle school and high school teachers to illuminate the pathway from the classroom to career opportunity. Through programs like BioTeach, MassBioEd provides training and mentoring, to an average of 150 local teachers each year, on designing and implementing hands-on, cutting-edge life science lessons. This work with teachers reaches over 12,000 middle school and high school students annually. Additionally, over 3,000 students in high need districts receive intensive biotechnology lab and career awareness experiences through participation in the ACCESS program.

At the conference, speakers and panelists also identified a number of ways to reach students who have graduated high school or received their GED degree. MassBioEd’s Apprenticeship program, as well Associate Degree and Certification programs, build relevant skills for entry level life sciences jobs in areas such as manufacturing, research, quality control, and process operations.

Suffolk University Law School Professor Renée Landers moderated a panel that highlighted some of these programs that focus on concurrent education and skills-based training. For example, the Biotechnology Technician program at Middlesex Community College emphasizes hands-on practical lab work and includes on-site work experience at a local biotechnology company.

Discussion at the conference also identified a growing need to train qualified life sciences workers at the post-graduate level. According to the 2022 MA Life Sciences Employment Outlook report, management occupations in finance, marketing, scientific leadership, data science, and information technology, experienced more than 35% growth over the last three years – even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suffolk University Law School’s newest specialized program, the Master of Science in Law: Life Sciences (MSLL) degree, is an industry-oriented life sciences education program designed to help meet the growing demand for life sciences professionals with specialized training. This graduate-level program, designed for students looking to pursue or further a career in the life sciences sector, provides the insight and working knowledge of the science, business, and legal aspects needed to enter and succeed in the life sciences industry.

The MSLL program requires students to demonstrate literacy in molecular biology, genetics, therapeutics, and statistics, and to learn about regulatory and compliance, business development, program management, and contracting roles within the context of the life sciences industry. In addition, the curriculum covers biotechnology business models, legal aspects of scientific discovery in fields like genetics or molecular biology, data security, intellectual property and regulatory compliance law, and clinical research operations.

The MSLL program can be completed in as little as two semesters or as long as 2⅟₂ years, and students have the opportunity to benefit from practical experiences and build their professional network while completing their degree. As a STEM-designated program, the MSLL also qualifies international students for up to 24 additional months of optional practical training (OPT) on top of the initial 12 months of OPT.

Suffolk University Law School is proud to be able to offer a program that will prepare a diverse and skilled pool of professionals for the life sciences sector. Being a part of these conversations with MassBioEd informs Suffolk’s ability to respond to the needs of organizations and government agencies involved in the life sciences. Suffolk welcomes any opportunities to collaborate with partners in the life sciences industry and in providing opportunities for students to ensure that Massachusetts remains the leading global hub for life sciences research, development, and innovation. Learn more about Suffolk University Law School and the MSLL program here.