Between Biotech Lab and Company Boardroom-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Between Biotech Lab and Company Boardroom: Carnegie Mellon Launches Master of Science in Biotechnology and Management

From developing life-saving drugs to cleaning up toxins, biotechnology companies are transforming the way we manage human health and the environment. Now, Carnegie Mellon is transforming the way we train future managers in this growing industry. These managers must be able to both handle the business of biotechnology and grasp the complex science that underlies it. To meet the growing need for managers with such breadth and depth of expertise, Carnegie Mellon has established the nation's first Master of Science in Biotechnology and Management (MSBM) program.

Unlike other universities, which host their biotechnology programs and degrees in schools of engineering or science, the MSBM is the only truly interdisciplinary program that ensures an equally balanced, in-depth emphasis on business and science. The new program, a partnership among MCS, the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, and the David A. Tepper School of Business, aims to train managers who can respond to new opportunities and challenges within the biotech industry. This new generation of managers must simultaneously balance regulatory, scientific, business and marketplace issues as they communicate between and advise the company's chief executive officer and chief scientist.

"Our new degree program offers in-depth training in advanced technology, management and policy," says MSBM co-creator John Mather, executive director of master's programs and teaching professor of marketing at the Tepper School. "It is essential for today's biotech firms to have managers with a solid grounding in the relevant core sciences as well as in basic management principles."

Navigating the Complex Biotech Industry

Biotechnology depends on groundbreaking, scientific research that takes advantage of molecular-scale biological processes and manipulates and reinvents those processes to create vaccines, discover new drugs and engineer tissues. But it's not just the science that is complex. The biotech industry itself is dynamic and multifaceted. Many companies are new and highly entrepreneurial. The success of these fledgling organizations is set against a dynamic, complex marketplace and a daunting regulatory matrix that includes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture.

"The interaction of policy, regulation, markets and science creates an extraordinarily complex environment for business and innovation. Training managers capable of operating effectively in the midst of this complexity is essential to the growth of the industry and the well-being of society," says Mark Wessel, dean of the Heinz School.

The MSBM program leverages the recognized leadership of the Tepper School, ranked No. 3 both nationally and internationally by The Wall Street Journal in 2006; the Heinz School, consistently ranked in the top 10 public affairs graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report magazine; and MCS, whose faculty are leaders in fundamental scientific research and technology discovery. MCS faculty members are also known for transferring their research to commercial enterprises, such as GE Healthcare.

"Many MCS graduates working in industry are quickly recognized for their exceptional science knowledge and abilities in the lab, and they suddenly find themselves in project manager positions. But they typically haven't had management training," says William Brown, professor of biological sciences and co-creator of the MSBM program. "This new program will change that."

Training the Next Generation of Managers

Capitalizing on these university-wide strengths in management, policy and science, the MSBM curriculum challenges students to investigate the many dimensions inherent in managing a biotech company. Students complete courses in optimization and decision-making at the Tepper School; biotechnology regulation, policy and compliance at the Heinz School; and applied cell and molecular biology at MCS. Core classes are supplemented by advanced electives that allow students to explore in-depth a specific area of interest, including bioinformatics, robotics, molecular biology and entrepreneurship.

The MSBM program enrolled its first group of students this past fall. Most of the students selected were Carnegie Mellon science and engineering majors who have business administration minors. These students are participating in a 3:1:1 program in which they spend three years on undergraduate studies, one year on a blend of undergraduate and graduate coursework, a summer internship with a biotechnology company, and a final year on graduate coursework.