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Houston BioTech Donation Enriches UH Program, Prepares Future Professionals

June 27, 2023

The Technology Division of the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering is the recipient of a generous donation of biotechnology equipment from Alaunos Therapeutics.

The Houston-based, clinical-stage biotechnology company develops novel T-cell receptor (TCR) cell therapies for the treatment of solid tumor cancers.

Picture of a professor smiling next to donated equipment.

“We are incredibly grateful to Alaunos for investing in our program and our students’ futures,” said Fatima Merchant, professor and chairwoman of the Engineering Technology Department. “Biotechnology is a fast-growing industry. Having students learn on the same equipment used by industry makes them more valuable as future professionals in the field.”

Examples of the potential donated equipment include a fluorescence activated cell sorter, Wave bioreactor, bacterial shakers, centrifuge, chiller bath, cryofreezers and cellometers. All these are used to analyze, culture or preserve cells for cell-therapy research.

A researcher in a lab coat stands next to a counter filled with biotechnology equipment.

“One of the goals of our curriculum is to equip students with practical, hands-on biotech training coupled with laboratory and lecture components,” Merchant said.

In addition to research, the equipment will reinforce graduate and undergraduate theoretical knowledge that leads to understanding the basis of human diseases, and the discovery, design and production of new drugs for the treatment of those diseases.

“At Alaunos, we are passionate about improving cancer outcomes through T-cell receptor therapy,” said Alaunos CEO Kevin S. Boyle Sr. “With this surplus equipment donation, we hope to complement the College’s stellar biotechnology training program by accelerating opportunities for students to develop the skills required to lead the next generation of scientific discovery. We have hired UH graduates in the past and hope our donation supports a strong talent pool from which to hire in the future.”

Picture of two professors with donated equipment.

The equipment may also be used by researchers from other UH departments, local universities and industry collaborators.

The donation has been distributed to the laboratories of UH biotechnology professors at the UH instructional site in Sugar Land. Their research spans the fields of microbial, agricultural and medical biotechnology. The donation will accelerate ongoing research activities, generate important preliminary data for future grant proposals and encourage the awarding of research grants by federal funding agencies.

The innovative biotechnology degree is an interdisciplinary program that draws from sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare students for professions in that industry. It is the first program in the state of Texas to integrate bioprocessing, nanobiotechnology, bioinformatics and environmental biotechnology into an undergraduate program.

The Technology Division of the UH Cullen College of Engineering is located at UH at Sugar Land.

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