By MATT M. JOHNSON firstname.lastname@example.org August 27, 2014
MANATEE -- A group representing the Manatee-Sarasota bioscience industry wants science-related businesses to notice this part of Florida is producing a growing crop of life science and bioscience graduates.
At 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10, the Sarasota-Manatee chapter of BioFlorida will put on its first BioTech Expo at New College of Florida. Pulling in faculty from local colleges and high schools, science students and science-industry employers, the two-hour event is planned to raise the profile of science education programs in the two counties.
The event is designed to let industry know this area has a science-oriented workforce that relocating or expanding biotech companies should find attractive.
"This is the new workforce," said James Humphrey, chief operating officer of Manatee County biotech research company Roskamp Institute and a science co-chair of the Bradenton-Sarasota chapter of BioFlorida. "These are really top-quality students."
South Florida has seen some growth in the bioscience economy. The Roskamp Institute, which researches drugs to combat Alzheimer's disease, opened in Manatee County in 2003. More recently, pharmaceutical manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb announced last year it would employ about 600 people in its new North America Capability Center in Hillsborough County.
Area schools have responded to the demand for science workers. This week, the Sarasota-Manatee campus of the University of South Florida opened its first science undergraduate degree programs. The school has hired four new science professors to teach biology, organic chemistry and other science courses. Jean Rose, dean of the school's college of arts and
sciences, said the BioTech Expo is an opportunity to further enmesh the new faculty into the wider academic and professional science community.
"I think that this collaborative project is exciting not just for our students but also very personally something to offer our new faculty," she said.
Humphrey said response to the expo has been enthusiastic. Ten vendor tables sold out in less than a day, while a number of local science instructors, elected officials, chambers of commerce and industry professionals have committed to attend.
The expo is the first of its kind among the eight chapters of BioFlorida because it features STEM, a statewide council incorporated in 2011 by Workforce Florida and Enterprise Florida to strengthen the science, technology, engineering and math skills of the state's students. Students in high school, college and post-graduate science programs to attend the event. Humphrey said BioFlorida plans to make the expo a statewide annual event.
Featured presentations at the expo will include the Inspiring Elementary Education program undertaken by McNeal Elementary School in Bradenton and a genetic disease research project undertaken by a student attending LECOM in Lakewood Ranch.
The expo is open to the public. Pre-registration is encouraged. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. in College Hall at New College. For more information visit bioflorida.com.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.
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