July 12, 2019

Sustainable Opportunities: KnipBio

KnipBio, Inc., located out of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) at UMass Lowell, operates in a unique space of the life sciences sector. The company’s aim is to pioneer advanced nutritional solutions for animal feeds from low-cost and sustainable feedstocks using innovative biotechnology. Earlier this year the company received the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine for its KnipBio Meal aquafeed ingredient for salmonids and other finfish species.

The developments taking place for KnipBio in the aquafeed market are exciting for the company’s Co-Founder and CEO, Larry Feinberg, Ph.D. He also appreciates the resources provided to him by M2D2 and the life sciences ecosystem he sees developing in Lowell.

“I’m pretty bullish on the Lowell story,” said Dr. Feinberg, who is also proud to regard KnipBio as a champion of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center’s Internship Challenge program. “When I talk to my peers in other states, I am always taking about how great Massachusetts is, and the Internship Challenge is one of the prime examples I highlight.”

It is a “win-win” according to Dr. Feinberg, having enabled the company to not only bring on interns, but also hire them as full-time members of the KnipBio team. Since 2015, the company has offered a total of eight internships through the program. They are among the 188 that have been hosted by current and former M2D2-based companies since the Internship Challenge first launched in 2009.

“We get access to a robust list of candidates and the students gain experience and skills, develop their career interests, and we’re more than willing to create opportunities to catalyze that interest.”

For the KnipBio team, the structure of the Internship Challenge program is just right to provide student’s real world, hands-on experience, while also allowing the company to determine if the intern is a good fit for future internship or even full-time opportunities. KnipBio has provided internships for roles as technicians, biologists, chemists, and in the business development area. The MLSC annually provides 500-plus paid internship experiences for Massachusetts college students that enhance the talent pipeline for small to medium Massachusetts life sciences companies. Twenty percent of interns immediately matriculate to full or part-time employment with their company at the end of their internship.

Through the Internship Challenge, companies can hire up to two interns from four-year institutions per program year, but have the option to hire up to two additional interns enrolled in a two-year/community college or certificate program.

“This formula is very smart,” notes Dr. Feinberg. “It eliminates the bias, almost right away, toward students from four-year institutions. We quickly realized the high caliber of students we can recruit from community colleges. There is less of a chance that students from two-year institutions will be overlooked.”

Dr. Feinberg raves about the students from Middlesex Community College that have interned with KnipBio. One of those students, Nelson Nunez, began at Middlesex Community College enrolled in its certificate program, carried that forward to the college’s associate’s degree program, and is now enrolled in UMass Lowell’s Biotechnology Program.

Nelson credits the hands-on training and the push from Middlesex faculty to pursue experiential learning opportunities.

“They take anybody with a passion and can help shape their knowledge and skills in techniques and best practices in the field,” said Nelson.  “It is a chance to get a foot in the door and from there build your skills which you come to believe will take you far.”

Through his internships at KnipBio, where he gained experience as a lab technician and research associate, Nelson believes the biotech field offers many career opportunities.

“I started off with nothing but an interest in science as a kid,” said Nelson. “My education and internships have helped me bridge that early interest toward a passion for my education and career that I’m excited to continue to pursue.”

The MLSC was the lead funder of M2D2. A joint partnership between UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School in Worcester, M2D2 is a business incubator that helps medical device and biotech startups bridge the gap between idea and market. Since its inception in 2007, M2D2 has assisted more than 100 companies.

Middlesex Community College has received more than $3 million through the MLSC’s competitive capital program to build a state-of-the-art biotechnology facility on the Lowell campus. More recently, MBI received a $3.5 million capital grant from the MLSC to establish additional incubator space along with a “Stage II” incubator to serve as a bridge for companies to grow and sustain their business model.

In celebration of 10 years of the Internship Challenge, past and current interns, companies, and colleges and universities are encouraged to share their story.

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