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New Hood College center hopes to advance Maryland as a biomedical hub

Hood College recently received $6 million to expand its Hodson Science and Technology Center and $510,000 to create an endowed director position at its Biomedical Research and Training Center. (File Photo)

Hood College is developing a new center aimed at providing education in the field of biomedicine not only to its own students, but to employees of local businesses and students of other institutions, as well. 

The Biomedical Research and Training Center will be part of a larger, 32,000-gross-square-foot expansion to the college’s existing Hodson Science and Technology Center, which is currently in the design phase and is set to begin construction next summer. The expansion will include teaching lab space and classrooms, as well as office space for the Biomedical Center.  

The idea for the Biomedical Center was born out of Hood’s close relationship with a local pharmaceutical firm, Kite Pharma, which Hood played a role in enticing to open a location in Frederick County. The college offered Kite space to train current and future employees, inspiring the college to formally create a center to facilitate similar partnerships with other industry partners across the region. 

The Biomedical Center will offer a range of programming, including “workshops, bridge courses to prepare graduate students for advanced research and programming focused on the development of specific high-demand skills defined by our industry partners,” the Frederick college said in a press release.  

“(We) worked very closely with a broad team of constituents to think critically about what this center would do,” said Hood Provost Debbie Ricker.  

The center will also partner with local companies in the biomedical field to place students in internships and apprenticeships, as well as to invite those company’s scientists to teach courses at the center. Next spring, Hood will offer one such course: a high-level science class focused on cell therapy, co-taught by a Hood professor and a Kite employee, featuring both a laboratory element and trips to Kite’s Frederick manufacturing plant. 

“We’re sort of seeing it as the beta test of, what could this relationship look like? How could these partnerships flourish?” Ricker said. 

In providing training in high-demand biomedical skills, Hood has several goals. The college hopes to both train its students to be successful in the growing industry, but it also hopes to grow the biomedical industry in Maryland by attracting companies to a region with knowledgeable and skilled employees, plus a bevy of resources for teaching their own workers new skills. 

Some funds for the center will be provided through grants. In July, the college received a $6 million grant through the Maryland Independent College and University Association Capital Grant Program to go towards the expansion of the Hodson Center, which is expected to cost a total of $20.1 million. In addition to the creation of the Biomedical Center, the expansion will also offer more classroom and laboratory space for several of Hood’s growing STEM programs, like chemistry and computer science, as well as an auditorium and a new greenhouse. 

More recently, on Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Commerce announced Hood would receive $510,000 to go towards the endowed director position at the center. The funds come from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, a state program aimed at encouraging research activity at colleges and universities. 

Moving forward, Ricker is excited to see what kind of innovative partnerships the Biomedical Center will forge throughout the Frederick area and even beyond; she can imagine the possibility of someday even inviting students from other universities to receive specialized training through the center. 

“The sky’s the limit” in terms of what the partnerships between Hood and the region’s biomedical industry could eventually look like, Ricker said.