BPD BioGrow - Training and Education Across North Carolina

Join us for this free event, which will showcase North Carolina’s biologics and pharmaceutical (biopharma) manufacturing educational and career opportunities. The event will feature representatives from training programs at community colleges and universities across North Carolina.

There will be a panel of recent graduates who have completed local training programs and got hired, as well as a panel of industry representatives sharing what it takes to get hired at their companies.

Ample networking time will allow you to learn about available training programs and connect with our speakers and other attendees. Refreshments will be served. All are welcome.


12:30 - 1:00 p.m. -  Registration and Networking

1:00 - 2:15 p.m. -  Panel Discussion: Faces of Success

Former students from local educational programs will discuss how these programs helped prepare them for a career in biopharma

Lisa Smelser, Department Chair of Biotechnology at Central Carolina Community College

•    Jasmine Alleyne - Downstream Process Development Associate at KBI Biopharma
•    Damon Sanders - Manufacturing Operator at Novo Nordisk
•    Deidrea West - Manufacturing Lead at CSL Seqirus
•    Rhonda Thorne - Upstream Cell Culture Supervisor at KBI Biopharma 

2:15 - 3:10 p.m. -  Break for Networking

3:10 - 4:15 p.m. -  Panel Discussion: Path to Success

Company representatives will share their views on skills needed for a successful biopharma career

Natacha Janvier - Membership Director at NCLifeSci

•    Elizabeth Maulhardt - Associate Director HR Business Partner at Merck
•    Jordan Comer - Human Resources Associate at Lilly RTP
•    Gitte Husballe - Director of People and Organization (P&O) at Novo Nordisk
•    Leslie Gilbert - Director of HR at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies

4:15 - 4:20 p.m. -  Closing Remarks and Thank You to Speakers

4:20 - 5:00 p.m. -  Networking

Training Opportunities (Training institution Exhibitors): 

  • Accelerate NC Coalition
  • Alamance CC, BioNetwork /Capstone Center
  • Campbell University
  • Central Carolina CC
  • Craven CC
  • Durham Tech CC
  • East Carolina University
  • Forsyth Tech CC
  • Johnston CC
  • NC Central (BRITE)
  • NC State (BTEC)
  • Vance Granville CC
  • Wake Tech CC

Panelist Biographies

Faces of Success Panel

Moderator: Lisa Smelser - Department Chair, Biotechnology @ Central Carolina CC

Lisa Smelser holds an Ed.D. in Science from Ball State University in addition to a Masters in Biology with a Biotechnology certificate. She is the Department Chair for Biotechnology programs at Central Carolina Community College and serves as the liaison for the BioBetter grant in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge - Accelerate NC project. Dr. Smelser is a 2020 BioWork graduate and teaches and advises students in Biotechnology programs aimed at training a diverse workforce. With experience in cell and gene therapy techniques, she received the 2021 Excellence in Advising award and served as the 2022-2023 NCCCS Biotechnology Alignment Project Coordinator, streamlining programs for better alignment with industry needs.


Jasmine Alleyne - BTEC/KBI Biopharma

Jasmine Alleyne graduated from NC State University in May 2022 with a B.S. in Molecular and Structural Biochemistry and two minors in Microbiology and Biomanufacturing. At NC State, she did prostate cancer research for 3 years in Dr. Simpson’s lab focused on biochemical analytical assays and cell culture. Junior year, Jasmine also interned at Biogen in Quality Control, running stability assays on two drugs in clinical trials. Jasmine is currently employed KBI Biopharma where she works downstream doing process development and characterization for monoclonal antibody-based pharmaceuticals, a position she found at a BTEC career fair.


Damon Sanders - BULLS/Novo Nordisk - Durham

Damon Sanders attended Winston Salem State for two years until Covid started in 2020. From there he worked hard labor jobs including FedEx at the peak of Covid, and a distribution center in a freezer that was -30 degrees. In September of 2022 he was involved in a bad car accident which caused him to be fired a month later. He found the BioWork program and completed it in May 2023, and with support from Made in Durham he was hired by Novo Nordisk where he currently works as a manufacturing operator on the packaging line. 


Deidrea (Dee) West - CCCC BioWork + AAS program/ CSL Seqirus

Deidrea West is currently in the Bioprocessing Technology AAS program and two classes away from Spring 2024 graduating class. She is also currently employed by CSL Seqirus in Holly Springs as a Lead Manufacturing Associate in the inspection/ packaging department and has experience in aseptic background in Formulation, Adjuvant, Weigh and Dispense and Support.


Rhonda Thorne - graduate (BASc, May 2024) of NCCU/BRITE who works at KBI Biopharma as an upstream cell culture supervisor.

Rhonda Thorne is an upstream supervisor for KBI Biopharma (contract development and manufacturing organization). She is currently a student at North Carolina Central University in the Pharmaceutical Sciences (BRITE) program.  She has been in the pharma industry in different functions for approximately 20 years. Her career began as a production operator at Abbott Labs in Rocky Mount, NC. She went on to different opportunities at GlaxoSmithKline, bioMerieux, Merck, and Fujifilm Diosynth. She obtained an Associate’s Degree in Biotechnology from Pitt Community College where she graduated on the Dean’s list in 2012. Rhonda was inspired to pursue a career in the pharma industry while she was employed at Abbott Labs. With it being her first pharma job, it was there that she learned that what she does impacts patient’s lives just as any surgeon, doctor, or nurse. She witnessed the effectiveness of medicine and its impact on improving/prolonging life through family and friends who were diagnosed with various illnesses. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, and traveling. 


Paths to Success Panel

Moderator: Natacha Janvier - Membership Director, NCLifeSci
As Director of Member Services at NCBIO, Natacha Janvier handles member recruitment, retention, sponsorships and general services for NCBIO members. Ms. Janvier came to NCBIO from Eva Garland Consulting (EGC) where she was the Business Development Coordinator. Before that, she was with NCCU’s BRITE program for more than 14 years as a senior academic advisor and science recruiter, for both undergraduate and graduate students, in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. She also spent more than seven years as an associate scientist at GSK, where her contributions to early phase drug development in the Cloning and Expression and Genomic Histology groups were recognized. Natacha has a BS Biology, AS Criminal Justice, Grambling State University and an MS Zoology, Michigan State University.

Elizabeth Maulhardt - Associate Director HR Business Partner, Merck
Elizabeth Maulhardt is an MBA, Associate Director HRBP at Merck with over 20 years of experience developing HR strategies. Specializing in designing and implementing people development programs and adding value to team performance globally.

Jordan Comer - Human Resources Associate, Lilly RTP
Jordan Comer is a Senior Associate - Human Resources at Eli Lilly and Company's Research Triangle Park site. She has been in this role for 3 years now. She is responsible for leading the staffing for Lilly RTP's start up site focused in device assembly, packaging, and parenteral manufacturing. Jordan has a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Gitte Husballe - Director People and Organisation, Novo Nordisk
Gitte Berg Husballe is the Director of People & Organization (P&O) for North American API manufacturing at Novo Nordisk in Clayton, NC, a position she has held since 2022. Gitte has worked for Novo Nordisk since 2015, with extensive experience in P&O. Prior to joining Novo Nordisk, Gitte worked at BankNordik in Denmark and the Faroe Islands, holding roles ranging from Personal Banker to HR Director. She holds a degree in Business Administration from Aarhus University, Denmark.

Leslie Gilbert - Director of HR, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies
Leslie brings more than 20 years of experience as an accomplished and results-oriented HR leader. Leslie’s career span includes biotechnology, healthcare, manufacturing, construction service, banking, and software industries – from small, privately held companies, to public, global companies. Leslie’s expertise is to build relationships with managers and employees and serve as a strategic partner to the business. Currently, as Director of Human Resources, Leslie, and her team are responsible for the onboarding, coaching, development, partnering, and support of 725+ employees over the next few years. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies Holly Springs, when complete in 2025, will be the largest cell culture CDMO biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility in North America. Leslie is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a BS in Psychology. Leslie and her husband live in Holly Springs with their two daughters.

For More Information

For questions or more information, contact:
Hannah Cole
Program Manager, Science and Technology Development Science and Technology Development 919-549-8840 | hannah_cole@ncbiotech.org



15 TW Alexander Drive

RTP, NC  27709

Free, registration required
For More Information

For questions or more information, contact:
Hannah Cole
Program Manager, Science and Technology Development Science and Technology Development 919-549-8840 | hannah_cole@ncbiotech.org

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