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New marine biotech center to support commercialization of biotech products

Posted by: Frank Vinluan on August 5, 2011 Source: MedCityNews.com

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has awarded a $2.5 million grant to establish a marine biotechnology center that would support the commercialization of biotechnology-based products coming from research and development originating on the North Carolina coast.

“Seventy percent of the earth is covered by water,” said Biotech Center spokesman Jim Shamp. “There’s an awful lot of possibilities that are untapped.”

The four-year grant will go toward establishing the Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation, or MBCOI, which will be charged with working with researchers and businesses to develop new products in areas such as healthcare and diagnostics, as well as food and energy. The grant follows a $100,000 planning grant previously given by the Biotech Center to invite industry representatives and academics to join in planning MBCOI. MBCOI could work with companies such as Agile Sciences, a Raleigh startup and North Carolina State University spinout whose research with sea sponges is the foundation of a breakthrough technology to combat biofilms. Agile Sciences is eyeing medical applications, but it is also pursuing industrial and agricultural applications of the technology as well.

MBCOI will be the fourth such “center of innovation” seeded by the Biotech Center. The others are the Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, or COIN, medical technologies-focused ibiliti and the Drug Discovery Center of Innovation, which operates on the campus of The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park.

The grant comes with milestone targets, including the recruitment and hiring of a president/executive director to lead MBCOI. As with the other centers of innovation, MBCOI must meet business milestones and ultimately become independent and self-sustaining over the life of the four-year grant.

Participants in the marine center’s early planning efforts include representatives from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and MARBIONC, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for Marine SciencesNorth Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology and the Duke Marine LabEast Carolina University technology transfer staff also assisted with creation of the business plan.

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