North Carolina's Eastern Region Capitalizes on Marine Science and Biotechnology Research
The 85-mile coastline along North Carolina's Eastern Region may be famous among tourists for its unspoiled beaches and pristine waters, but among researchers it is becoming known as an up-and-coming center for marine science and biotechnology.
Along the Carteret Coast, marine labs associated with North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hil and Duke University, along with East Carolina University, are conducting groundbreaking research in diagnostics, genetics, renewable energies, biochemistry, aquatic foods and more. The region is also home to one of two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) labs for the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, which works to protect coastal habitats at the federal, state and local level.
All of this innovative potential will soon be harnessed and maximized with the establishment of the region's Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation. A virtual organization funded by a four-year, $2.5 million innovation grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the MBCOI will work with marine labs and other marine research-based firms across the globe to build collaboration and cooperation, and create opportunities for commercializing research and bringing it to the marketplace.
Not only will the center promote the area's marine-based assets, it will also brand the region as a top destination for marine science and biotechnology, according to the MBCOI's new CEO Dr. Deborah Mosca.
Mosca's goals for the center include boosting collaboration among marine students and researchers, and developing synergetic partnerships between the region's labs and marine-based organizations and firms.
"We will work with tech transfer offices at member institutions as a 'specialized agent' to increase commercialization of marine-based technologies," she says.
Initial plans for the center include establishing a searchable Web-based inventory of marine research, assessing potential partners for research commercialization, targeting and reaching out to industries that can provide research support and licensing, and increasing the region's presence at marine science and biotechnology conferences. The center will have offices in both Wilmington and Beaufort/Morehead City.
Along with bringing cutting-edge marine science and biotechnology research from the lab to the marketplace, the MBCOI will provide support for start-up ventures and work to create more success stories like Agile Sciences. Founded in 2007 by two North Carolina State University professors, Agile Sciences develops biofilms – compounds that disperse colonies of bacteria – for application in medical, agriculture and industrial markets. The firm's biofilms have been tested for use in everything for lung treatments for cystic fibrosis patients to medicines used to fight antibiotic-resistant viruses.