Greenville getting regional biotech site
By Mike Grizzard, The Daily Reflector
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Touting it as "a day of change" for eastern North Carolina, community leaders gathered Friday for an announcement that the North Carolina Biotechnology Center will establish a regional office in Greenville to help develop biotechnology throughout the region.
The center, scheduled to be dedicated Oct. 11 at the Rock Springs Center, is the result of a diverse partnership between East Carolina University through the chancellor's office, the Brody School of Medicine, the School of Business and the office of the provost; the Pitt County Development Commission; the Pitt County Committee of 100; the city of Greenville; Pitt Community College and North Carolina's Eastern Region Partnership.
Steven Burke, senior vice president for corporate affairs at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park, made the announcement at a news conference at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium's Club Level.
"We like days of change, we like days of cusps, we like days when there's something new in the air," Burke said. "In Greenville and Pitt County, in this part of eastern North Carolina and, in fact, in society, there's now something very new and very significant at hand."
The new Eastern Office and a Southeastern Office in Wilmington, also announced Friday, join two offices established in the last two years – the Piedmont Triad Office in Winston-Salem and the Western Office in Asheville. Regional offices are a major part of the Biotechnology Center's "Project to Strengthen Biotechnology Across North Carolina," aimed at boosting biotechnology resources, opportunities and job creation.
Each regional office will have a director, an assistant and an advisory committee of about 25 leaders to identify areas of need, goals and niche capabilities. John Chaffee of the Pitt County Development Commission said the center is one more way to tap into the growth potential of the region.
"It really becomes one more partner for us in terms of trying to do all the things that we've been doing for almost the last decade," he said. "It's almost like there's an opportunity for a gold rush, and we've brought the miner in now to excavate it and bring it out and commercialize it."
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said much of the groundwork had been laid before his arrival less than two years ago, but he was quick to give it his full support.
"Great partnerships make great things happen," Ballard said. "We're here to celebrate a partnership that I knew about in the first week that I came here. I did not create it. But professor Paul Phibbs in microbiology, among many others, has been really moving this partnership forward for a long time."
Burke said Pitt County's combination of a research university, one of the state's biggest community colleges, a strong business environment and committed leadership at various levels made it a prime spot for a regional office.
He added that many diverse sectors can benefit from biotechnology development and application, including saltwater and freshwater marine resources, aquaculture, livestock, forestry, field crops, biomanufacturing and pharmaceutical manufacturing, contract research organizations, drugs and diagnostics for treating human diseases, biofuels, and bioindustrial applications.
"I know of no other tool that can be more useful in time in this area than biotechnology as a way to affect societal change, to our crops, to our health ... to effect economic change through some new companies over time, through some jobs and through some new opportunities," he said.
Some sectors in North Carolina are benefiting from biotechnology. About 95 percent of cotton, 87 percent of soybeans and 52 percent of corn grown in North Carolina is genetically altered, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Burke said human health is a primary area for biotechnology to impact eastern North Carolina. But he cautions patience.
"The conventional models for creating jobs and companies don't work very well with biotechnology. ... That's why this is a long-term endeavor," he said. "The more subtle long-term task is to see how and often new and unexpected ways we can apply biotechnology to what you already do.
"This approach is long term, and it's complicated, and it demands patience. Biotechnology does not spontaneously erupt."