Gilead has launched a first-of-its-kind educational partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).
According to a Gilead release, the program will be a two-semester course that will allow underrepresented students to learn drug development and manufacturing work in the private sector to support and enhance student engagement and consider internship and future employment opportunities at Gilead upon graduation.
Dr. Joseph Graves, a biological science professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, an HBCU school, said scientific research happens in the private sector, where BIPOC are few and far between.
“The majority of scientific research in the developed, economically powerful world occurs in the private sector,” Graves said in the release. “But the numbers of underrepresented groups in those spaces are ridiculously small.”
The program is part of Gilead’s overall strategy to increase the diversity within its ranks and develop career pathways for entry-level Gilead employees. Richard Polniaszek, vice president, Process Development at Gilead, praised the program and believes it will create deeper connections with potential new employees and increase the number of scientists with BIPOC backgrounds.
“Typically, when corporations go to universities, they tell students they can come and work and learn during a summer internship,” Polniaszek said.
“We came up with this idea to go beyond that, where we offer a course over the period of a year in order to create an ongoing relationship between students, the university, faculty, and our organization—with the emphasis on a relationship rather than just a one-off internship.”
Gilead designed the course with the help of HBCU and HSI partners to ensure it’s designed and presented in a relatable way to their students. More than a dozen Gilead employees will serve as virtual professors, and the curriculum will focus on process and analytical chemistry, commercial manufacturing, and supply chain and distribution.
“This program opens a pathway to increase the numbers of underrepresented students who will pursue a career in private research, at a time when pharmaceutical research may be one of the most important enterprises in the world,” Graves added. “Doing it right and having new voices at the table to help it become better is an absolutely crucial thing.”