About the Program

The Ignite Biotechnology Summer Program consists of a 2 week all-day experience where high school students with an interest in science will solve an important problem by first learning the required scientific concept and then carrying out the experiments needed to solve the problem.  Teaching is problem oriented and delivered in interactive lectures and small groups.  All students will carry out the experiments under the close supervision of trained faculty.  Each two students are supervised by one laboratory proctor.  Students will compile the data that they generate and present it to the group on the last day of the program.  Students will participate in field trips where they will visit the work place of and interact first hand with the various professionals involved in the life sciences industry.

The 2017 summer session is a 2 week recapitulation of the development of recombinant erythropoietin, a hormone that revolutionized the treatment of anemia and became the first biotechnology block-buster drug.  Students will perform modern versions of the experiments that pioneering scientists carried out in order to produce large quantities of erythropoietin.  Students will first clone the erythropoietin encoding genetic sequence.  Then, they will link that genetic material to additional DNA sequences that, when inserted into mammalian cells, trick the cells into producing erythropoietin.  After they transfer that genetic material into the same Chinese hamster ovary cells that Amgen uses to make large quantities of the erythropoietin used to treat humans today, they will test both the bioactivity and concentration of their product.  Along the way, students will gather the data that they generate and prepare to give a presentation to their peers and the program faculty during the last day of the program.  As they carry out these exciting experiments, they will learn the historical context surrounding the original cloning of the erythropoietin gene, the key figures involved and their contributions, and the basic biology that allowed for this revolutionary anemia treatment to be developed.

Students will participate in five field trips.  They will visit and interact with physicians who take care of anemic patients at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital’s dialysis unit and Cancer Center.  The students will see, not only the impact that erythropoietin has on anemic patients, but also what it is like to be a clinician and clinician-scientist.  Because the biotechnology industry depends heavily on private funding for drug development, students will visit Xsquare Capital’s headquarters in the Banco Popular Center and learn from hedge fund managers what being a money manager entails and the key role that they play in the allocation of financial resources to emerging and established biotechnology companies.   Students will visit Ferraiuoli LLC, where they will learn what intellectual property lawyers do on a day to day basis and how they are intimately involved in the development of new technologies and medical treatments.  Students will visit the new University of Puerto Rico Molecular Biology Science Building in Río Piedras.  There, they will see state of the art basic science laboratories and learn from a basic science researchers what it is like to  work full-time to better our understanding of human biology and to discover new ways to treat disease.  Students will also visit Amgen’s Juncos manufacturing facility and learn, from engineers involved in the manufacturing of biologic drugs such as erythropoietin, the essential role that they play in efficiently and safely producing these drugs.

High school science teachers that are motivated to include hands on experiments into their biology curriculum will participate in an orientation two days before the students begin.  They will then participate as proctors during the program.  The day after the student program is over, they will be provided with modules of experiments, similar to the ones carried out during session, modified to facilitate their incorporation into the biology classroom.  There is a $25/day stipend for teachers.

Cost: $750 ($150 non-refundable deposit + $600 tuition due May 5th)
Scholarships available for all teachers and public high school students thanks to the Amgen Foundation.


Program T shirts will be provided. Lecture slides and written material will be in English. Group lectures will be given in Spanish. Snacks will be provided. Students must bring their own lunch or purchase it at the school cafeteria.

Ready to sign up?

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If you attend a Private School Click Here!

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Student Requirements
1. Students must have completed 10th grade
2. Students must have completed a high school biology course
3. Students must have at least a B average

Dates: June 5 to June 16, 2017

Location: Colegio San Ignacio, Urb. Santa María, 1940 Calle Saúco, San Juan