Amgen Foundation grant helps URI, CCRI

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offer biotech lab program to Rhode Island high schools

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 29 2007 – The University of Rhode Island was awarded a $239,500 grant from the Amgen Foundation to offer the Amgen-Bruce Wallace Biotechnology Lab Program in partnership with the Community College of Rhode Island to high school students throughout the state.

The lab program provides science teachers and students with hands-on laboratory experience in biotechnology techniques using kits of materials and equipment that can be shared among many classrooms. The curriculum materials included in the kits feature the same equipment used by the biotechnology industry, including electrophoresis equipment for DNA separation, centrifuges, micropipettes, consumables for growing bacteria, and an incubator.

URI and CCRI will work with the URI SMILE (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences) program to implement the lab program. SMILE hosted an initial teacher workshop on the Amgen-Bruce Wallace program last spring.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to provide high school students with hands-on experience learning the techniques used in one of our fastest growing career fields,” said Gregory Paquette, professor of cell and molecular biology and director of biotechnology and clinical laboratory science programs at URI. “Very few schools in Rhode Island have the means to offer biotechnology lessons in their curricula, so this grant will provide eye-opening opportunities for hundreds of additional students in the state. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the Amgen Foundation.”

The Amgen-Bruce Wallace Biotechnology Lab Program was designed in 1990 by Amgen scientists in cooperation with high school and community college instructors. The program was first offered in California and expanded last year to Washington and Colorado. Since its inception, the program has reached more than 100,000 students. Paquette said the program will be offered in 10 to 15 school districts in the state during the three-year duration of the grant.

“Amgen Rhode Island is pleased to have the Bruce Wallace program offered in our communities,” said Kimball Hall, vice president and general manager of Amgen Rhode Island. “The Amgen Foundation’s investment in the program helps expand students’ knowledge of biotechnology and gives them access to hands-on, inquiry-based science curricula.”

“What’s great is that students will basically be performing the steps used to clone a gene, mimicking on a small scale what biotech companies are doing,” said Josephine Pino, professor and coordinator of the Biotechnology Certificate program at CCRI. “Teachers are dying to implement this kind of hands-on curriculum and get a hold of the types of materials this program provides.”

All of the equipment, training and supplies necessary to implement the three-week program will be provided to schools and teachers at no cost. Teachers will receive curriculum and training at the biotechnology manufacturing laboratory at the URI Providence campus.

The Amgen Foundation ( seeks to advance science education; improve patient access to quality care; and strengthen the communities where Amgen staff members live and work. Since 1991, the Foundation has made more than $85 million in grants to local, regional and national non-profit organizations that impact society in inspiring and innovative ways. It has also supported disaster relief efforts both domestically and internationally.