The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) has signed a technology-transfer licensing agreement with aaiPharma Inc. (Nasdaq: AAII) to facilitate the transfer of scientific discoveries by university researchers into future useful medicines.

Although actual products resulting from this collaboration are not expected to hit the market in the near term, UNCW says research at the school on new bio-chemical entities is well underway. The Center for Marine Science and the Departments of Biology and Chemistry are currently conducting research dealing with the identification of molecules that may be used to develop potentially life saving medicines from pharmaceutically active entities found in the state’s coastal waters, UNCW says.

Once a new chemical entity is identified as having pharmacological activity, it will be offered to aaiPharma. If deemed to be commercially viable, aaiPharma says it will use its research and development experience to move the compound through the drug development and approval process. If approved by the FDA, aaiPharma says it will assume responsibility of sales and marketing, or license it to a third party.

“This is an exciting relationship and a unique opportunity for two local, leading institutions to combine their respective expertise on making a positive difference in medical research,” George Van Lear, president of aaiPharma’s research division, said in a statement. “The students and university scientists will gain valuable hands on experience working side by side with industry leaders — and aaiPharma will gain access to a generally untapped resource for drug development.”

Technology transfer is becoming increasingly important in North Carolina as universities patent discoveries, license inventions and create spin-off companies. It also provides tangible evidence and benefits of research dollars at work. UNCW says the agreement with aaiPharma is a landmark first step in what should prove to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

“UNCW’s agreement with aaiPharma is a milestone for this university and another indicator of the increasingly sophisticated and significant science being done by our faculty and students,” Daniel Baden, director of the UNCW Center for Marine Science, said in a statement. “This is a promising arrangement because UNCW is doing the creative discovery research, which we do well. Then, when compounds are discovered that have potential commercial value, aaiPharma will come in and do what they do best.”