Iyana Pearson saves lives. Before she joined the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative in 2022, she had worked as a dialysis technician for eight years. Like so many other Americans, however, she found herself looking for work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Iyana explored getting back into the medical field, she discovered the pilot Biomedical Technician Training Program: Aseptic Manufacturing. The collaborative initiative brought together the proven recruitment and professional development expertise of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, class- and lab-based training by The Wistar Institute, and PIDC’s Navy Yard-based employer Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc., a late-stage biotechnology company developing novel cancer immunotherapies. With support from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, the 22-week-long program prepared participants for employment in cell and gene therapy, a burgeoning industry in Philadelphia.
Once in the program, Iyana flourished, excited by the opportunity to do something that she never pictured herself doing. Even when Iyana had to miss time due to illness, her determination to stay on track was noticed and supported by the program staff. As soon as Iyana was ready, staff worked with her to make sure that she was caught up and ready for success.
“To be in the position that I am without a degree, to me is pretty amazing,” Iyana shared, “the only way you get things like this, is with a degree. Everyone at my job has a degree.” In March of 2023, Iyana accepted a full-time role at Iovance Biotherapeutics, Inc., where she and other program graduates work to manufacture a cutting-edge cancer treatment. “I might be the reason why someone is here 6 months longer or gets extra time with their family… simply because I was able to make this medicine for them.”
The success of Iyana and her peers has since inspired a similar program with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for Research Technician roles. The next partnership with Iovance Biotherapeutics launches on August 23rd, 2023.