NC Biotech’s vision: The North Carolina Biotech Center presented Gov. Mike Easley with a 54-recommendation strategic plan for biotech growth that would cost more than $390 million if fully funded.

Easley said he had asked the Center for “the most aggressive plan,” and that is what he got.

The first two years of the plan focus on the biomanufacturing training program funded at $64.5 million by the Golden Leaf Foundation and industry commitments.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt, who co-chaired the 120-member committee that developed the plan with former Gov. Jim Martin, said the plan could create 100,000 jobs in the next three to ten years. “This is the place where we can be the best and out-compete the world,” he said. “Biotech in all its manifestations has the potential to bring more jobs to the state and build the economy than any other industry.”

From 2005 through 2009, the 100-page plan recommends aggressive steps that include investing $25 to $50 million a year from state pension and escheat funds in biotech startups, likely to be the most controversial proposal.

From 2005 to 2009 the plan also recommends spending:

  • $33 million to develop a statewide network of research centers focused on key regional resources.

  • $25 million for the state commerce department to promote NC biotech.

  • $19 million to replenish the Biotech Center’s economic development fund.

  • $15 million annually in the One North Carolina Fund used to recruit industry to the state.

  • $15 million to fund continuing education programs at community colleges.

  • $11 million to support early-stage applied research through Biotech Center grants.

  • $10 million a year to endow university faculty and create a general fund for faculty startup packages.

  • $6 million beginning in 2006 and $12 million more for the next three years to continue funds for the Biomanufacturing and Pharmaceutical Training Consortium.

  • $500,000 to $1 million a year to survey the needs of biomanufacturing and life science companies in the state.

  • $250,000 annually to market NC to national and international venture capitalists.

  • $200,000 a year to establish an entrepreneur in residence program at universities.
  • Essential goals

    The plan’s three most immediate priorities for state investment are aimed at recruiting and expanding biomanufacturing plants in the state, creating new startup companies, and spreading the biotech largesse statewide.

    More completely over the five-year period its goals:

  • support the state’s bedrock of intellectual capital at regional universities and would stimulate applied research efforts.

  • encourage entrepreneurial startups by researchers and substantially increase the availability of seed and startup funding available to all biotech entrepreneurs.

  • support educational initiatives from the elementary to the university level, with a focus on adult retraining and continuing education specifically aimed at the life sciences or other technical employment.

  • tone the state’s muscle to attract, retain and or expand biotech operations here. It would expand the state’s marketing and recruitment efforts, which are already lauded as among the most effective in the nation.
  • Although the plan’s recommendations and the strategy of focusing so much money and effort on one industry is not without critics, it appears to have broad support among the leadership in the state legislature. Both Marc Basnight, the Democratic Senate president pro tem and Richard Morgan, Republican co-speaker in the House, have publicly expressed support for funding biotech initiatives.

    Easley pointed out that North Carolina is already an internationally recognized leader in the biotech industry and the strategic plan is intended to bolster that position. “Experts say the biotech industry will triple or quadruple in jobs in the next three to ten years. If we are bold, we can seize more than our fair share,” he said.

    He added that North Carolina already has more than 150 biotech companies employing 18,500 people and generating $3 billion in yearly revenue. He will study the plan’s recommendations but has not yet put his stamp of approval on the entire 100-page document.

    Norris Tolson, secretary of the NC Department of Revenue, said the legislature will likely receive specific funding requests for parts of the plan when the next session begins in May.

    The full plan is available online at: