CHARLOTTE: It’s official: biotechnology has arrived in the Charlotte region.

The proof? This year will be the last time UNC Charlotte hosts the annual ‘Charlotte’s Emerging Role in Biotechnology’ conference.


In 2007, the sixth conference will simply be called ‘Charlotte’s Role in Biotechnology.’

“It’s no longer emerging — it’s here,” says Catherine Hicks, director of life science ventures for the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI), which is co-sponsoring the daylong October 12 event with the university’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT).

One indicator that the biotech arrival is not just hype is that one of the speakers will be Clyde Higgs, vice president of business development at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. It will be one of the first opportunities for the Charlotte community to learn how David Murdock’s biotech center will recruit and attract businesses to its 300-acre biopolis now under construction. (Earlier in the week, the N.C. Biotech Center will open its Charlotte area office at CRI and hold its board meeting there.)

The conference got its start in 2002 as the creation of Mark Wdowik, who headed up the OTT at UNCC until this summer. “This is one of his legacies, and it’s important to carry it on,” says Hicks, who is coordinating the 2006 event.

The conference is a way to showcase biotech research efforts and start-ups at the university and throughout the region and to foster communication and collaboration. About 125 people showed up that first year; last year, there were 250 attendees. Hicks hopes to attract at least that many this year.

The keynote speakers will be Mark Arizmendi, president of Agiogen, and Dr. Gerald Soff, the company’s chair and chief scientific officer. The Charlotte-based firm is developing a drug that destroys the blood supply to tumors, thereby ‘starving’ them, and they shrink.

Other speakers will include researchers from both the Carolinas Health Care System and Presbyterian Hospital; Leslie Alexandre, president of the N.C. Biotech Center; Mark Clemens, director of UNCC’s Center for Translational Research; Robin Coger, director o f UNCC’s Center for Biomedical Engineering Systems; and Larry Mays, director of UNCC’s Center for Bioinformatics. Several UNCC faculty members will also make presentations about their research.

In addition, there will be a session of ‘Biotech Jeopardy’ with teams from UNCC, Queens University and Johnson C. Smith University. The doors will open at the Barnhardt Center on campus for registration and breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and Hicks will begin the program with a brief history of biotechnology in the Charlotte region. The day will end at 4 pm with a networking social hour and tours of the university’s life sciences labs.

The cost for registration has yet to be determined, and information has not yet been put online. For more details or for information about sponsorship opportunities, contact Hicks at 704.687.8422 or at