“The possibilities are very exciting but very preliminary. There’s nothing set in stone.” – Spokesperson for NC Biotech Center.

KANNAPOLIS,Four of the state’s major universities have been approached about collaborating on the creation of a “biopolis” in the downtown of this former textile hotbed, The Salisbury Post reported over the weekend.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has also been involved in talks surrounding the idea, Local tech Wire was told Monday.

The idea is the brainchild of billionaire David Murdock, who also runs giant Dole Foods, wrote reporter Shamona McClary.

The Salisbury newspaper quoted a memo circulated by Molly Broad, head of the University of North Carolina System, which laid out the thinking behind the project.

UNC Charlotte, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State and Duke University have all been approached about the concept, the paper said.

The biopolis would be centered at a former textile facility and would be built on a partnership between Dole and the universities, according to Broad’s memo.

“I am pleased to report that as an outgrowth of our many conversations and brainstorming sessions, a plan has been developed that holds promise for dramatic and long-term economic growth for multiple regions and industries of North Carolina,” Broad said in the memo, according to The Post.

The biopolis would include an institute for “Advanced Fruit and Vegetable Science” (NCSU), a Nutrition Institute (UNC Chapel Hill) and a research center Duke) along with a business incubator and an all-girl school (UNCC). UNCC also might be involved in bioinformatics research, the paper said.

A spokesperson for the Biotech Center said officials there are aware of the project and have been approached.

“We’ve been involved, along with many others, in learning about David Murdock’s biotech-related plans for Kannapolis and discussing what, if any, role we might play in helping create biotech job, activity, infrastructure in the area,” he said. “The possibilities are very exciting but very preliminary. There’s nothing set in stone.”

Dole would also agree to build two food processing plants, one of which has already been announced.

“When in full operation, the new jobs created by these plants in areas with high unemployment have been estimated in the thousands,” Broad said in the memo.

Salisbury Post: www.salisburypost.com