New biotech workforce development initiative expands to UNH Manchester

William Ewing
Manchester Creates Collage


Greater Manchester is home to a growing number of biotech startups focused on regenerative medicine and biofabrication, the production of living cells, tissues and organs. This relatively new industry has the potential to revolutionize how a range of complex medical conditions—from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and osteoarthritis—are treated, earning southern New Hampshire a national reputation for entrepreneurship and innovation. Some have even likened the region to Silicon Valley and refer to it as “ReGen Valley” in tribute. 

As a testament to the importance of this burgeoning biotech community, a coalition led by the City of Manchester and the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) was awarded a $44 million Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in September 2022. Funds from this grant are being used to create a biofabrication cluster in the Manchester Millyard and support scientific research, business development, community partnerships and an array of education and workforce cultivation initiatives. The biofab cluster is expected to generate 7,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs in New Hampshire. 

Manchester CREATES, a new initiative at UNH Manchester launched over the summer with funds from the Build Back Better grant, will play an essential role in filling these new jobs. An expansion of  NH CREATES, a program funded by the National Institutes of Health that was started on the UNH Durham campus in 2020, the program will offer an array of free summer learning opportunities for middle and high school students starting in 2024 along with a paid professional development program for teachers. A project director for the program, Shannon McCracken-Barber, was hired this past July. 

students in a bioinformatics class

“We are thrilled to see the NH CREATES initiative come to Manchester,” says Mike Decelle, Dean of UNH Manchester. “This program will be a critical part of developing the talented workforce required for the growing biosciences industry in and around Manchester. It will also help fortify our relationship with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute and other likeminded industry and academic partners.” 

Over the past three summers, NH CREATES has offered free weeklong summer programs for students and teachers on the Durham campus focused on growing tissue, freezing and storing cells, 3D bioprinting, bioinformatics and molecular visualization. An emphasis is placed on admitting students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM-related fields; advanced proficiency in math and science are not required. 

“These programs have been very well received so far and we anticipate similar interest when we’re up and running in Manchester next summer,” says Carmela Amato-Wierda, associate professor of materials science in Durham, who runs UNH Tech Camp, a longstanding summer STEM program, and started the NH CREATES initiative.  

Essential to the broader vision for NH CREATES is establishing a learning ecosystem to facilitate cross-sector collaboration among middle and high schools, New Hampshire colleges and universities and industry partners. “Manchester CREATES marks a significant milestone in our efforts to expand our reach and connect with new communities across the state,” adds Amato-Wierda. 

Among those at UNH Manchester who are excited about this new initiative is Emily Kerr who coordinates multilingual educational programs in Manchester and manages a STEM-focused camp. “I’m especially thrilled about how Manchester CREATES will foster new ways for students to learn, grow and contribute to the biotech industry that is blossoming right here in their own community,” says Kerr. “I’m also looking forward to integrating the work of Manchester CREATES with other programs serving multilingual youth and adults in Manchester.” 

The Manchester CREATES team will be working in close coordination with new and existing STEM programs at UNH Manchester, including the STEM-MoBILE, a traveling lab that will visit schools in the local community that was also funded through the Build Back Better grant, and the STEM Discovery Lab

For questions about Manchester CREATES, please contact project director Shannon McCracken-Barber