RESEARCH TRIANGLE–Dr. Charles Hamner, retired head of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, says he’s working on getting the state to take a final step toward world dominance in the biomanufacturing arena.

Hamner helped engineer the state’s focus on biomanufacturing as president and CEO of the Biotechnology Center from 1981 until 2001. The Center in turn was instrumental in getting companies from Bayer to Wyeth to locate biomanufacturing facilities in North Carolina.

Yesterday the Golden LEAF Foundation committed $60 million to creating a biotech worker training program that encompasses both the state’s community colleges and its universities, a program expected to help attract even more biomanufacturing operations here.

“The greatest fulfillment in life is to see your ideas come about,” Hamner tells Local Tech Wire. “This is a major opportunity for the state to take the lead in the future biomanufacturing industry and I’m delighted.”

Now, Hamner says, “The state has to do one more thing that’s essential to make this a complete infrastructure. That is to find a way to fund the construction of biomanufacturing plants to help young companies that do not have a lot of credit worthiness build their plants.”

Hamner says he’s working on it, and if his success record thus far is any guide, he stands a good chance of accomplishing his goal.

Revenue Bond Authority Sought

“I’m working to get a revenue bond authority established in the state where we can share construction costs with the banks and insurance companies.” He says that could result in “an insured program that does not impact the state’s credit rating.”

Hamner says, “If we get that done in the next 12 months, we’ll easily be the number one biomanufacturing place in the world. It won’t even be a contest.”

Leslie Alexandre, who holds Hamner’s previous job as president of the Biotech Center, says, “There is a real need for financing vehicles for young companies. He (Hamner) has spent a good bit of time working on draft legislation and sounded quite positive in the discussions we’ve had. We certainly support it.”

Hamner points out that biomanufacturing companies tend to build their facilities on the edge of rural areas. In NC, that means, Hamner says, “They’ll be within easy driving distance of the farmers and textile workers who need to trained for new types of jobs.”

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Jobs are what it’s all about and Hamner says, “This will have a huge broad economic impact. The thing that’s so important about building these plants is that up front you create architectural, engineering and construction jobs. Then after the plant’s built, you create factory jobs. Then on the back end, you create jobs in trucking, distribution, storage, sales and so on. So for every job you create in the plant, you create at least two other jobs taking care of the products.”

Hamner says the Biotechnology Center started to emphasize attracting biomanufacturing to NC in 1991. “We worked hard to get a lot of companies to come here, like Bayer and Biogen.

Hamner says he realized that the Biotech industry was maturing to the point where it would soon need a much larger manufacturing base. “I was watching the development curve of the industry,” he says. “It takes about 30 years for an industry to go from startup to the point where you have significant manufacturing taking place, and the biotech industry is about 30 years old.

Center Started Diosynth

“About five years ago I knew that somewhere between 2000 and 2005 it would reach a crisis point,” he says. Industry figures suggesting a serious under capacity in biotech manufacturing bear him out.

The Biotech Center did more than just lobbying for state support. It made the initial loan to start Dionsynth, just like it made the initial loan to KBI Pharmaceuticals. KBI said Wednesday that it will locate its biomanufacturing plant in the former Mitsubishi facility in North Durham.

Then, the Center joined with the state’s community colleges in 1999 to develop a Biowork program.

Hamner says as soon as the Biotech Center got its Biowork program at the state’s community colleges up and running in 2000, “We realized we had to bring the universities into this. The thing born yesterday through the Golden LEAF Foundation brings them together so we’ll have an integrated program from associate degree programs through PhDs.

“We worked to make sure the kind of training put in place exactly matches what the industry needs most,” Hamner says.

Hamner says he’s happily retired, but still enjoys advising state leaders on these matters and then seeing the results come about.