Box 2-3

Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences

The Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences (referred to simply as KGI) was founded in 1997 to address the needs of both biology-focused students and the life sciences industries. The William. M. Keck Foundation provided an initial funding of $50 million (current use and endowment) to establish KGI. An additional $20 million grant from Keck and $30 million from other sources has been invested subsequently. KGI is a member of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, in Claremont, California.

Initially, KGI’s sole degree was the two-year master of bioscience (MBS). The Fully Employed Master of Bioscience Program was added this year for full-time employees. This three-year program is delivered via distance learning and evening classes. The MBS curriculum consists of about 70 percent science/engineering and 30 percent management/ethics, with a strong emphasis on teamwork and problem solving. A summer internship is required as well as an industry-sponsored team project in the second year.

KGI’s founding president, Henry Riggs, was formerly the president of Harvey Mudd College, also a Claremont Colleges Consortium member. His vision for KGI grew from the following observations and assumptions:

  • The 21st century would be dominated by the life sciences, just as the 20th century had been dominated by the physical sciences.

  • Engineering education is rooted in the physical sciences, giving short shrift to the biological sciences.

  • Life-science-based companies are underserved by the engineering education community.

  • Many positions in life-science-based companies do not require the scientific research depth that is characteristic of the Ph.D. degree.

  • Ph.D. programs are inefficient for students (and employers) seeking bioscience professional and managerial careers outside the basic research function.

  • A project-based, team-oriented curriculum with a strong management component and close ties to industry was needed.

  • The innovative curriculum and structure required would be difficult to develop within an existing, conservative higher education institution, particularly a research university. Therefore, a new and free-standing school was needed.

KGI enrolled its first students in 2000. The 200 MBS graduates from its first six classes are now employed in a variety of positions (typically not basic research) in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and related companies. One employer alone, Amgen, has hired about 20 percent of KGI’s graduates. The KGI Board of Trustees and Advisory Council include representatives of industry, particularly in biotechnology.

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