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An Enlightening Industrial Visit to Nusajaya, Johor for IMU Medical Biotechnology Students

14 Jan 2015

16 December 2014 – Second year and third year Medical Biotechnology students from the International Medical University (IMU) had the opportunity to visit a premier biotechnology park, Bio-XCell Malaysia and one of the Asia’s largest integrated Insulins manufacturing facility, Biocon Malaysia located within the biotechnology park in Nusajaya, Johor. Bio-Xcell2 crop The students’ perception about the future prospects of medical biotechnology in Malaysia changed entirely after this visit. Most of the medical biotechnology graduates often thought that getting a job related to this field would be difficult and therefore, tend to apply for jobs overseas. After this visit, the students are more aware of the bright future in medical biotechnology and keen to venture into the medical biotechnology industry in Malaysia. It was certainly a valuable, enlightening, fruitful and informative trip for these senior students. Here, some of the students relate to us their experience during the visit. Seow Yi Thern I found that this trip has benefited me in terms of applied and technical knowledge in Medical Biotechnology. It had been a meaningful time since I first stepped into Biocon, this trip has enable me to apply learning knowledge in the industry. At the end of the trip, I found that all the knowledge that I have learnt throughout the three years can be applied in the real industry and become useful information. The emergence of advance technology in this new era provide a better quality of human life, for example, some of the centrifuges and bioreactors inside the facility have the capability to purify and ferment mixture up to thousands of litres.

Most importantly, I learnt that communication is very important among each individual as all personnel have to be well communicated to ensure the integrity throughout the processes. If there is miscommunication, all the processes will be disrupted and result in an undesirable outcome.

The development of Medical Biotechnology related field has gained more attention over the years and human life is nothing without the development of Medical Biotechnology, so I choose this course as my degree study because I truly believe that Medical Biotechnology plays an important role in providing a better quality of human life in the near future. In addition, the establishment of largest Indian insulin company, Biocon implies the need of Medical Biotechnology related personnel in this new era which ultimately come out with advancements in technology. Low See Wee Bio-XCell A visit to Malaysian Bio-XCell and Biocon in Nusajaya, Johor had opened up my eyes. At Biocon, we were able to learn more about the techniques used in insulin production and had the chance to take a look at high technology machine/processor involved in the insulin production. On the other hand, Bio-XCell offers an environment conducive for the development and manufacturing of biologics, pharmaceuticals, bio-based/green chemicals and other solutions to heal fuel and green the world. It is a vibrant community to attract and retain local and foreign talent and networks of universities and agencies providing relevant training. This trip is certainly beneficial for students in terms of applied and technical knowledge.

After the visit, we concur that Medical Biotechnology in Malaysia has a good future in its development and career prospects. In fact, Bio-XCell has already attracted many industry leaders from USA, France and India to venture to Malaysia. This phenomenon has indirectly created a lot of job opportunities for students majoring in medical biotechnology and this brought excitement to the IMU students. Students will be able to learn more about the latest advancement on biotechnology by joining the top leaders in this industry. Advancements in the biotechnology field in Malaysia will help our country to retain local talents, as well as attract other foreign talents to venture in Malaysia.

Teh Seoh Wei The trip to Biocon Malaysia was very beneficial in terms of applied and technical knowledge. Semester 5 Bioprocess Technology module had taught me about the mass production of organisms and the beneficial products through fermentation process. The trip to Biocon was really insightful and taught me additional applied knowledge of how a factory operates, from the Research and Development, Production, Quality Control, to Marketing of the products. Tour to all the departments in the factory helped me recall and combine the knowledge I have learnt from Semester 1 to Semester 5.

I found that Medical Biotechnology course in IMU have trained me to be competent and I realised every module that I have gone through are helpful. Visiting every department and discussing the jobs and problems each departments might face have brought me closer to the working environment. The trip inspires me to think critically about the tedious works and strict regulations that need to be followed in a factory in order to produce high quality products. I also learnt that employees in Biotechnology field need to have extra skills other than work related knowledge, including critical thinking, problem solving skills, team works and willingness to learn.

Erna Binti Laere For me, the knowledge I got from this industrial visit is so valuable. This trip had opened my eyes on how actually human recombinant insulin is being made. All this while I just learnt from the books but now everything is right in front of my eyes.

A tour to Biocon site was really exciting as we could look closely to the equipment use in the manufacturing of human recombinant insulin. The speakers explained a lot of things regarding the function of each sections in the blocks that we visited. We also visited the Quality Control department which consists of two sub-departments, a Quality Control Analytical and Quality Control Microbiology. Quality Control testing need to be done to check for the drug’s stability and safety. All the things that we learnt in the class is about the same but this visit had gave us better understanding about recombinant gene.

Chrystine Yan Zou Yi Before this visit, we had many visits before to other factories and sites but none as glorious as this. I had always thought that biotechnology was a ‘dead’ field as pointed out by many lay people around me and that I took the ‘road least trodden’ when I decided to venture into it due to my interest in genetics. However, after learning about the history of Biocon and the whole plan about the Bio-XCell Biotechnology Park itself, it gave me the confidence that biotechnology will be a thing in the near future. MB students listened to the briefing attentively With that in mind, I was very much inspired when the speakers demonstrated and shared with us of their knowledge in the various processes in the various labs. Biocon focuses in the production of insulin and R&D in Malaysia. Just watching those state-of-the-art instruments was enough to make me stare in awe and wonder. It really opened my mind as to how advanced this biotechnology field has gone to from the very first discovery of penicillin. I have learnt that there are a few departments in the production line and each department has its own little subs; each of which are equally as important as the other in order to maintain a high quality product for the benefit of humankind. All in all, this trip proved to be very beneficial in terms of opening my mind to this so-called ‘dead’ field of biology and I found myself thinking of how to apply the theories in real life situations. Noel Jacques Awi I find that the trip is really useful in illustrating the real working life in the biotechnology industry. During the Q&A session one of the questions asked was whether the employee are expected to be doing a repetitive work while in Biocon. While the workers present did not deny that the work might be repetitive but they also highlight that in each department there are different processes involved and the workers are free to engage themselves in different processes to help prevent them from boredom. This shows that a person have to take the initiative by themselves to help their situation; in this case the repetitive nature of their work.

One thing that are highlighted heavily during the entire Q&A is the fact that Biocon sent their new recruit for training overseas. It does not matter whether the new recruit have any working experiences or a fresh graduate. This taught me that even after entering a working environment, it is important to keep an open mind to opportunities to learn something new as the biotechnology industry is a relatively fast industry that have a new aspect introduced everyday; whether it is an improvement of an existing technique or theory or a new invention altogether. The visit also gave us an idea how the R&D department works.

The site visit helps in understanding the processes needed to produce a pure protein but the technical knowledge that are brought back are rather minimal as most of the processes are automated and most of the work done in the university laboratory are manual.

The visit to the Bio-XCell shows the commitment by the government to increase the biotechnology industry by providing the place for the industry to take footing. The introduction of such a park encourages biotechnology companies from outside of Malaysia to build facilities in Malaysia. The introduction of such facilities in turn increase the job opportunities and since the companies just opened and are in need to build a work force, these creates a better opportunity for fresh graduate to enter the company where they would not be hired otherwise since large corporations usually only take experienced workers.

Overall, the visit to the Biocon and Bio-XCell are very enlightening on the state of biotechnology industry in Malaysia and provides an array of information on the working life in the industry. Ashvinny Moorthy After a four-hour long journey, we finally arrived in Biocon. After a brief meeting, we were divided into two groups, firstly we went to the downstream and upstream production sites. I was really amazed to see the equipment and not forgetting the level of technology that has been introduced in the factory. It was truly out of this world, I know that technology improves every day but it is the first time I am looking at those big cylindrical tanks with various functions controlled by a personnel from the other room with just a click on the mouse.

Thinking that I would be doing all this work, excites me even more. Do I think it is beneficial in terms of applied technical and knowledge? Definitely yes! We do perform lab experiments but we are just introduced for a quick time and we work in pairs, so as when I looked around the analytical rooms , it was equipped with lots of different equipment that I haven’t seen before. I think it really benefits me with the rounds we had to the analytical labs and other labs as well. I gained more knowledge on equipment that are available in market and are used for the production of insulin in Biocon.

After this visit, I was excited as Biocon is employing graduates to work for them. Furthermore, graduates are being sent to India for training so that they will be able to handle equipment once they are back to Malaysia. I am sure besides Biocon, there are many other companies that are already in market or yet to be established which will offer job opportunities for the fresh graduates. Since Medical Biotechnology has many branches, we are lucky that we can explore various fields and are not tied to a particular field. With the guidance that we have in IMU, I am sure we will be able to prosper in our field.

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