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OU Engineering to Help Meet State’s Biopharmaceutical Workforce Needs

October 11, 2022

OU Engineering to Help Meet State’s Biopharmaceutical Workforce Needs

In 2023, the Gallogly College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma will open an interdisciplinary workforce education and research center to serve the growing biopharmaceutical industry in Oklahoma. Named the OU Bioprocessing Core Facility, the center will serve as a shared research resource in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and bioprocess engineering. 

The proposed facility is part of the Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster Initiative, a coalition spearheaded by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber alongside partners, including OU, the Oklahoma City Innovation District and Echo Investment Capital. Oklahoma’s proposal was one of 21 out of 529 applicants selected nationally for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

John Klier, Ph.D. dean of the Gallogly College of Engineering, and Zahed Siddique, Ph.D., the college’s associate dean for research, lead the project.

“The OU Bioprocessing Core Facility will provide University of Oklahoma students with access to a state-of-the-art biopharmaceutical manufacturing process laboratory where they will have opportunities to participate in hands-on instruction and research,” Klier said. “Biopharmaceutical drug manufacturing requires sophisticated cell culture, analytical, data science and engineering expertise to move from invention to production. At OU, we want to prepare our students for this important and rapidly growing industry.”

The shared center will support academia, clinical research organizations, private companies and startups. The biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry’s rapid growth and expansion demand a steady stream of skilled workers, Siddique says. “The center will help OU produce well-prepared engineers, advance basic and collaborative translational research and bolster the regional talent base available in this emerging industry,” he said.

The $7 million will provide the investment needed to acquire equipment for the facility. OU has the necessary infrastructure in place to launch the center. Housed in the OU Health Sciences Center Research Park, the center will be near drug discovery and clinical research programs at OU Health near downtown Oklahoma City. 

Siddique notes that over three-quarters of all National Institutes of Health research dollars in Oklahoma flow to the research park, an anchor of the Oklahoma City Innovation District. He adds that four of the state’s five largest biopharma companies also are geographically headquartered in the area.

Earlier this fall, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer Dennis Alvord met with coalition members, including industry and education leaders and community-based organizations in Oklahoma City, to discuss the state’s initiative.

In addition to supporting the OU Bioprocessing Core Facility, EDA funding will finance five other projects in Oklahoma:

Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Center 

OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center for Therapeutics - Translational Research Labs

OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Early Phase Clinical Trial Network

Oklahoma Bioscience Cluster Initiative 

Oklahoma Biotech Startup Program 

Funded through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the Build Back Better Regional Challenge was charged with making “transformational investments” that “develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country, all while embracing equitable economic growth, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.” 

To learn more about the Gallogly College of Engineering, visit