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Inside Biomanufacturing

North Carolina Creates Smart Minds for Smart Careers

Courtesy of Novozymes North America Inc.
Courtesy of Novozymes North America Inc.

Thanks to the state’s education and workforce development programs, some of the brightest minds in the country call North Carolina home.

That’s because large biomanufacturing companies like Novartis, which recently brought a $1 billion investment and 680 jobs to Holly Springs, are attracted to North Carolina for its pool of highly-educated workers.

One of these bright-minded individuals is Shannon Manning.

Manning is one of approximately 30 North Carolina State University alumni that have found employment at Novartis.

A False Start

Manning, a native of the Nash County town of Middlesex, developed an interest in science while attending Southern Nash High School. He took advanced placement chemistry and physics, and even became a lab assistant.

In 1996, he began college at North Carolina State University, but ended up dropping out. Manning wound up working long hours managing a couple of area restaurants for a major national chain.

"I realized the quality of life was horrible shortly after I got married," he said, "so I decided the only way out was to finish school."

Back on Track

Manning returned to NC State, this time with renewed focus and the support of Dr. Robert Kelly's BIT biotechnology program. (BIT, still in existence, was a forerunner to today's Biomanufacturing, Training, & Education Center (BTEC) – the largest hands-on biomanufacturing training facility in the world, part of NCBioImpact, the state's industry training consortium).

Seeking hands-on industry experience, Manning landed a two-semester co-op position at Wyeth's vaccine manufacturing facility in Sanford followed by an internship, then contract employment there.

"I was really lucky to get the experience I needed working on the floor at Wyeth," he says. "But now BTEC is available to provide that. That facility and its people are really impressive. It opened the last semester of my senior year, in 2007."

Taking Off

Upon graduating in 2007, Manning joined more than two dozen of his NC State alumni at Novartis, as a production engineer in the automation engineering department.

"This talented group of students has established a world-wide reputation at Novartis," says Marcelo Anderson, BTEC's former Industry and Student Life Changer. "They're taking on big responsibilities – and delivering, despite being literally right out of the gate."