New Class Covers Regulatory Affairs for Biotech, Crop Protection

Aerial of Memorial Belltower and surrounding buildings on campus.

To introduce students to the complex world of state, national and international regulations governing agricultural biotechnology, pesticides and biological products, NC State University took an innovative approach this fall, offering a one-of-a-kind course that drew on the wisdom of 20 area industry professionals and faculty members from three colleges.

When the idea for the special-topics course was first suggested by alumnus Rick Carringer, Dr. Keith Edmisten recognized the need but found the prospect of putting together an informative course daunting.

“As far as I know there’s no one at NC State who has a broad background in regulatory affairs,” said Edmisten, a cotton specialist and professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. “I’ve done regulated trials, but that’s just one sliver of process.”

To provide a broad overview, Edmisten knew he’d need help from a legion of people whose expertise spanned the technology development process, from discovery to commercialization.

He found faculty members with related expertise in NC State’s colleges of Sciences, Natural Resources and Agriculture and Life Sciences. And with CALS director of partnership development Dr. Deborah Thompson, he recruited private consultants and professionals from BASF, Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta who were eager to help design and teach the course.

“They wanted students to get a feel for where the regulations come from, why they exist and what they do,” Edmisten said. “And they saw the need not just for the class to be offered in a traditional classroom, but they wanted it to be offered through distance education so that people beyond campus could enroll.”

In all, 30 students – graduate students as well as upper-level undergraduates – signed up. The course was so well received that Edmisten plans to offer it again next fall.

Ph.D. student Todd Spivey said the course helped fill a gap in his education, as he prepares for an industry career in agricultural biosciences.

“I thought it was eye-opening, to say the least,” he said. “It was really neat to see and hear from people who work with this firsthand and to be exposed to it before we get thrust into it.”

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