North Carolina Biotechnology Center $2.5 Million Grant Advances N.C. Marine Biotech Sector

Published: Aug 02, 2011

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. August 2, 2011 – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has approved a four-year, $2.5 million grant to establish a Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation (MBCOI) to accelerate development of commercial products from the state’s marine life using the tools of biotechnology.

“North Carolina is a national leader in the life sciences, and we’re seeing our coastal marine labs contributing more to that base every year,” said John Chaffee, president and CEO of North Carolina’s Eastern Region, the fiscal agent for the marine biotech consortium. “This is especially true in the areas of health, energy, aquatic foods and diagnostics.”

“This Marine Biotech COI will bring together key partners to identify and prioritize innovations that can satisfy an identified market need,” he added. “Ultimately, successful commercialization of marine biotech innovations will grow the sector and lead to valuable North Carolina jobs. We are grateful to the Biotechnology Center for its leadership in creating the COI concept and for the assistance provided by its leaders.”

Mary Beth Thomas, vice president of the Centers of Innovation program at the Biotechnology Center, said a key feature of the COI program is “to capture and leverage the diverse strengths of North Carolina’s unique regions in ways that will grow a targeted industry sector leading to a stronger economy and the creation of good jobs.”

The four-year COI award builds upon a $100,000 planning grant given previously by the Biotech Center. That money was used to develop a business plan, making the MBCOI eligible for the Phase II funding. With the new award, the MBCOI must meet business milestones and ultimately establish itself as an independent, self-sustaining entity.

The first milestone will be the recruitment and hiring of a president/executive director to lead the MBCOI in identifying and prioritizing key market sectors, said Chaffee.

Key partners in the Phase I planning effort included regional economic development partners from the state’s Eastern and Southeastern regions as well as representatives from the state’s leading marine institutes: the University of North Carolina Wilmington and MARBIONC; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for Marine Science; North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology; and the Duke Marine Lab. East Carolina University technology transfer staff also assisted with creation of the business plan.

Daniel Baden, Ph.D., director of the Center for Marine Science at UNCW, said the MBCOI grant is an important step for North Carolina’s expanding role in protecting and tapping the vast resources found in the ocean.

“This COI is an excellent way to bring together a full range of business and academic strengths to create new products, new companies and new jobs through marine biotech innovation,” he said.

The MBCOI is one of four Centers of Innovation created by the Biotechnology Center to accelerate commercialization in areas of particular economic promise, including nanobiotechnology, drug discovery and advanced medical technologies.

The Biotechnology Center is a private, non-profit corporation supported by the N.C. General Assembly. Its mission is to provide long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina by supporting biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.

Contact: Jim Shamp, senior editor of corporate communications, at or 919-541-9366. Visit the Biotechnology Center's Web site at

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