10 universities around the world to study biotech you should know about

Photo/Elena Resko
Biotech universities

The biotech industry across the world has been picking up its pace over the years. As many sectors plummeted during the pandemic, the biotechnology industry weathered the storm. Global biopharma companies are collaborating with biotechnology universities across the globe to improve research and development in various fields within the industry.

To boost business opportunities, universities now offer entrepreneurship programs for researchers who want to develop their biotechnology innovations and courses are tailor-made to support budding scientists in various sectors within the biopharma industry.

As universities across the globe offer bespoke training to equip students to pursue a career in the biotech industry, here are some universities attracting students to study in the biotech field.

Table of contents

    Harvard University

    Located in Massachusetts, U.S., Harvard University’s proximity to the booming biotech industry in Boston makes it one of the best universities to pursue a master’s in biotechnology. As the university holds the prestigious Ivy League status in the U.S., 86% of its graduates were employed or continued their education within ten months, as of 2021. The course in biotechnology, a collaboration between the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School, is suitable for those who have innovative ideas to launch a biopharma startup. Joining the Harvard Biotech Club, a student-led organization, is a way for researchers to receive hands-on training and expand their network for a future career in the biotech industry.

    University of Cambridge

    The University of Cambridge enjoys the perks of being in the center of the U.K.’s growing biotech hub as Cambridge is home to biopharma companies such as cell coding company Bitbio and therapeutics company Microbiotica, both affiliated with the university. Ranked as the best biotech institute in the U.K., the school is an option for those who want to focus on chemical engineering and biotechnology. With a placement rate of more than 91% in biological sciences, the undergraduate degree emphasizes on improving healthcare and research in therapeutics and the postgraduate course provides training in business and science.

    The university supports entrepreneurial projects and trains researchers to become business-savvy scientists. Having partnered with pharma company AstraZeneca on biopharmaceutical research, the University of Cambridge received funding for PhD studentships in 2022 and has more than 100 active research projects including studies in cancer therapy. The university also celebrates the annual Cambridge Festival, a showcase of interactive experiments and demos that focus on sustainability and healthcare, to boost visibility of projects by pioneering researchers in the biotech community.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Home to more than 250 biopharma companies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a thriving biotech industry, much like its namesake in the U.K. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based in Cambridge, offers an array of programs in life sciences. Ranked second in biotech training in the U.S., the university offers biomedical and biotechnology courses.

    The school hosts career expos and fairs to encourage graduate employability. Those who have an interest in cancer research will benefit from the resources offered at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer research based in the MIT campus, which focuses on emerging lines of research in immunotherapy and nanomedicine. The university’s partnership with Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute has been key to research in the promising field of translational science.

    National University of Singapore

    Singapore’s soaring biotechnology industry is forecast to expand by 61% over the next decade with the rise in biopharma startups and spin-outs. The National University of Singapore has facilitated the development of various spin-outs such as cancer therapy research center PairX Bio and food biotechnology company AuroraFood which develops diabetic-friendly products.

    The university’s master’s program in biotechnology is ideal for those keen on pursuing research in genetic engineering and genome editing. With more than 1,500 research articles published in 2022, it is ranked as the top university in biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology in the country. The biotech program is designed for students to liaise with companies to get a head-start on their future careers in biotechnology.

    Stanford University

    Home to more than 3,000 biotech companies, California is on par with Massachusetts as the leading biotech cluster in the U.S. The state is also home to Stanford University, which offers an interdisciplinary graduate training program in biotechnology that focuses on bioentrepreneurship. The course offers opportunities for students to engage with venture capitalists and pitch cutting-edge ideas.

    Ranked number one for biological sciences in the U.S., Stanford has collaborated on the Bay Area Biohub project to strengthen research in cell biology. The Biohub program has also opened up avenues for budding scientists to break into their career in research. The university is also affiliated with SPARK, a collaboration between Stanford and various life science companies to promote technological innovation. One of the most notable success stories from the partnership has been the development of an opioid analgesic with reduced side effects and low abuse potential for pain relief.

    Karolinska Institutet

    With growing biotech hotspots in Sweden, Karolinska Institutet is situated in the capital city of Stockholm. The institution offers a sought-after degree in Molecular Techniques in Life Science that is beneficial for bioinformatics researchers. Known for its Nobel Assembly, the college also has a master’s course in bioentrepreneurship, a program in collaboration with Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, that allows researchers to hone entrepreneurial skills for business development within the biotech sector. The school’s collaboration with global biopharma companies like Merck, Novo Nordisk and Janssen has enhanced research in fields such as oncology and biomarker discovery.

    Wageningen University

    The Netherlands is at the heart of many climate conscious biotech startups like BlueBlocks BV and Outlander Materials. For biotech researchers passionate about sustainability and development, Wageningen University offers an acclaimed master’s program that specializes in molecular, food and environmental biotechnology. As part of their research, the university is working with bio-based products sourced from remains of construction materials in a bid to tackle the climate crisis. The project has gained momentum after the City of Amsterdam collaborated on the innovation to push for sustainability. Considered to be the best university for biotechnology in the country, the school has a Digital Innovation Hub for startups to partner with agri-food companies.

    Technical University of Denmark

    Famous for its well-established biotech cluster, Denmark is a great place to pursue research in biotechnology. Ranked as the top college for biotech in the country, Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is best suited for those who want to specialize in fermentation based biomanufacturing, as the university has collaborated on an initiative that offers research and training opportunities in the field.

    One of the university’s most prominent collaborations is on the AIM–Bio Project, a program funded by Novo Nordisk, and it has multiple ongoing projects that include research in cell factory engineering and bioreactor design. The master’s course offered by ​​DTU in Biotechnology paves way for a future career in globally known companies like Novozymes A/S and Novo Nordisk A/S.

    ETH Zurich

    The Swiss-based school offers a master’s degree in biotechnology that provides training in various laboratory techniques including genomics and cellular engineering. With a focus on business development, graduates often pursue entrepreneurial roles in the biopharma industry, particularly in Basel, which is a hotspot for biotech companies.

    ETH Zurich has numerous spin-off companies associated with the biotechnology department such as Engimmune Therapeutics, a company that researches potential therapies for solid tumors and DeepCDR Biologics, a center that focuses on gene editing and deep sequencing for drug development. To create networking opportunities in the sector, the university organizes the annual Latsis Symposium where successful candidates are funded for their projects.

    New cutting-edge innovations: ETH Zurich

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    Heidelberg University

    One of the best biotech universities in Germany, Heidelberg University’s placement rate of 91% is a testament to its valued training program. Based in a country with a flourishing biotech industry, Heidelberg University’s degree program in Molecular Biotechnology that centers around the industrial applications of techniques like bioinformatics and cell biology, equips students to pursue a career in the public healthcare sector. The university founded Collaborative Research Centres, which enables researchers to carry out innovative projects. It is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) through ERC grants that are offered to budding scientists. The University has also collaborated with biotech company OncoHost in lung cancer immunotherapy research.

    Although these institutions offer a fine range of programs for future biotechnologists, the top universities are not limited to this list. As the industry booms across the world, more schools recognize the need for bespoke training opportunities for research enthusiasts, and now offer a variety of intensive and extensive courses for students to hone their skills for a career in life sciences.

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