Power in partnership: Durham Tech, Wake Tech launch RTP Bio

Published March 18, 2022

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Durham Tech and Wake Tech are on a joint mission to demonstrate that, while there may be safety in numbers, there is certainly power in partnership. And that’s a good thing for the area’s booming biopharmaceutical community.

The two Triangle-based community colleges have just announced the launch of RTP Bio, a workforce development collaboration that will unite the schools’ biotechnology, biomanufacturing and biopharmaceutical talent pipelines, sweetened by a pledge of support from a major North Carolina newcomer, Eli Lilly and Company.

The goal is to better address the ever-increasing employment needs of the region’s life sciences employers, while also attracting more students who might be introduced to satisfying biopharma careers.

“RTP Bio will be our mechanism to foster a collective commitment to life science companies in the Research Triangle Park and Durham, Orange and Wake counties,” said Durham Tech President J. B. Buxton. “This initiative enhances biotechnology career opportunities for students and graduates of both Durham Tech and Wake Tech.”

The project couldn’t come at a better time. The two community colleges, with Research Triangle Park located in each of their service areas, support one of the largest life sciences hubs in the United States. Jobs in the sector grew by more than 11,000 in 2020, a trend that continues to accelerate each year.


Hewing to the state’s renown for partnerships that synergize successes, Durham and Wake Tech have agreed to develop joint programs as part of the RTP Bio initiative. These include associate degree transfer arrangements; the delivery of short-term and customized workforce training; additional apprentice programs; and new pathways for high school students to enter the life sciences community. The collaborative also plans to support biotechnology-related career development and employment services across the two colleges and the counties they serve.

Wake Tech currently offers degrees in biopharmaceutical technology and biotechnology and continuing education through the BioWork workforce continuing education initiative. Durham Tech provides degrees in clinical trials research and biomedical equipment technology and continuing education, also through BioWork. The school said it plans to add new degrees in biotechnology-related programs in the coming year.

“We’re excited for what the future holds for RTP Bio, and we’re excited to work together to prepare the future IT and biotech professionals,” said Scott Ralls, president of Wake Tech.


According to the two colleges, Lilly has made an annual commitment of $40,000 to support the program. Lilly just broke ground on a $474 million pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in RTP, and also announced plans for a $1 billion-plus pharma factory in the Charlotte suburb of Concord.

Lilly’s RTP Bio commitment will be used for student scholarships, faculty development and other critical resource needs. In addition, a federal budget allocation of $1.2 million in community project funding has been earmarked for RTP BIO.

The initiative fits well into North Carolina’s plans for workforce development and outreach to underserved communities, as outlined in the Phase 2 grant proposal submitted earlier this week by a coalition led by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and including the state’s community college system, for a federal Economic Development Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant.

The RTP Bio initiative also aligns well with NCBiotech’s ongoing Bio Jobs Hub program to bring more people into North Carolina’s life sciences workforce.

Originally published at WRAL TechWire: