COVID-19 continues to disrupt the continuity of learning across the Biohealth Capital Region (BHCR) university system. Classes have gone virtual and most campuses remain closed to faculty and students.
Campus closure means no lab access for University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) students within the Biotechnology and Research Education Program (BREP). In order for BREP students to become the next generation of biotechnology and bioprocessing engineers, they need more than distance learning via ZOOM — they need hands-on, real-time training with the lab equipment they’ll use in the field.
At Lab Owl, we were uniquely positioned to help BREP students keep training and learning despite the obstacles the pandemic has thrown their way. As a leading provider of flexible, fully integrated, remote access bioreactor control and information systems for cell culture, fermentation, regenerative medicine, and cell and gene therapy applications, it was a natural fit for us to partner with Program Director Ben Woodard and his BREP students. We were more than happy to lend our expertise and state-of-the-art automated bioreactor control system equipment to keep this valuable workforce pipeline moving forward.
BREP at UMD has a storied history of delivering excellent biotech and bioprocessing training; scores of BREP graduates have gone on to outstanding life science careers right here in the BHCR. The A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and BREP’s 125th intern as well.
To execute this remote training class, BREP’s Kevin Knapstein took up residence at Fina Biosolutions, whose CEO Andrew Lees had generously agreed to provide the equipment and lab space for the remote training session. Lees stated, “We are pleased to be able to support BREP distant learning. FinaBio has been working with BREP on training in downstream processing since our start in 2006. Lab Owl made it easy to assist with the fermentation training. As we already run our system remotely, they were able to add the students without having to physically be in our facility.” Knapstein ran the fermenter while approximately 19 BREP students monitored bioreactor activities on their phones and computers from locations across the U.S.
“The training event was really cool. The students all had their own remote login and could see the remote data live and pull the data off of the system from a secure server. Lab Owl enabled our students to go from face-to-face, on campus lab work to being able to see live data from their homes,” stated Woodard.
“The students were able to manipulate the agitator, turn off the air flow and see how it impacted the control variables from their phones. They could see the state-of-the-art Human-Machine Interface (HMI) control systems at work while being taught in a remote classroom,” he added.
“Our customers regularly monitor their experiments from home. Being able to demonstrate that functionality in a classroom setting and enrich the learning experience for Ben’s students was a great opportunity to introduce a new generation of future biotech professionals to technology that will enable their future success,” stated Kevin Hannigan, President of Lab Owl.
Lab Owl’s work with the BREP students is emblematic of its technology’s importance and value, especially in the coronavirus age.
Our bioreactor automated control and information system with extensive remote monitoring capabilities keeps development lab scientists safe while keeping them productive during this ongoing health crisis. With Lab Owl, labs can keep making product development progress possible without being in the lab physically. This is especially important for smaller, emerging life science companies with more limited staffing and resources.
Our product is an out-of-the-box, highly-flexible automated bioreactor control system that empowers scientists to monitor, adjust, and securely control cell culture and fermentation experiments from anywhere at any time. This means fewer staff in harm’s way without losing any control of your runs or oversight into your bioreactors’ performance or possible red flags.
Lab Owl can also help lab managers and teams stay on top of lab performance with push notifications to lab team devices by email or text should an experiment alarm get triggered. And lab development team members won’t have to travel all the way to the lab to fix whatever might be wrong — you can make any adjustments you need right from your tablet or phone.