Education in Puerto Rico: Producing World-Class Life Sciences Talent
By square mile, Puerto Rico has more post-secondary institutions than anywhere in the world. This concentration has led to the development of a number of college and university programs which produce world-class talent for the territory’s life sciences industry.
From the manufacturing perspective, one of the leading institutes in Puerto Rico is the College of Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Mayagüez. “We are consistently the number one producer of Hispanic engineers in the US, according to the American Society for Engineering Education,” says Agustín Rullán, the College’s dean. “Every year around 600 engineers from different levels graduate. And with our research projects, we have also increased the number of collaborations with other universities.” Among the College’s many programs, the institution has created a multi-disciplinary graduate program in bio-engineering involving all engineering departments that impact the pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare industries in Puerto Rico. Rullán aims to have 20 students within the next couple of years.
“We [have] developed new technology to quickly test for several diseases which will have significant impact worldwide” – John Fernández van Cleve, UPR Mayagüez
“We have a lot of top-notch projects across various disciplines which have the potential to be patented and go global,” notes John Fernández van Cleve, chancellor of UPR Mayagüez. “For example, we developed new technology to quickly test for several diseases which will have significant impact worldwide. Software engineering is another good example; there are a lot of patentable ideas that can be developed in relation to applications and programs. At UPR Mayagüez we have the CRD (Research and Development Center) and we receive USD 20 million a year from various sources for numerous research projects. We believe that if we get those marketable patents it will be of high-impact nationally and internationally and we may also be able to sell the patent.
The Center for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Learning (CPEDaL), a training and research center established in 2006 at UPR Mayagüez, is also supporting. “We have projects with Janssen, BMS and Lilly, among others,” says director Carlos Velazquez. “The success stories are the interactions with these companies. Furthermore, we have established a continuous manufacturing room here which can be used by those companies for experiments or projects. CPEDaL has managed to integrate research, education and services for the industry and facilitate intercommunication and collaboration between the three. This has driven us to focus on process control. This research could be a great asset not just for the pharmaceutical industry but many others as well.”