Right now, Boston is “the hub of the biotech universe,” as the front-page headline of Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy column notes, but I wonder how long we will stay there without smarter investments in the humans local companies need to fill technical jobs.
Year after year, about 35 percent of the city’s budget goes to public education, and yet, year after year, local life science companies struggle to hire trained workers. More spending per K-12 pupil and more grants that send lab equipment to schools hasn’t solved this decades-old problem. To attract the next generation of innovators, we need to modernize biotech education in schools.
Ginkgo Bioworks, which Kirsner cites, gets it. They recognize that biology isn’t about dissecting a frog or memorizing the Krebs cycle. They support programs that change the student mind-set, helping students think like a bioengineer who can “hot wire” a cell to produce things our planet needs. It’s time for all the investors and companies currently sitting on top of the biotech universe to help bring the science of tomorrow to the students of today.
The writer is a senior lecturer in MIT’s department of biological engineering and founder and executive director of BioBuilder, a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education.