The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is launching a new $2.5 million effort to boost commercialization of the state’s maritime potential.

A Marine Biotechnology Center for Innovation will be funded over four years.

“There is so much cool stuff coming out of the marine biotech labs,” a Biotech Center spokesperson said.

The Center will serve as a “magnet” to boost emerging private sector companies as well as to commercialize university developed research.

The decision to develop the center was made following the development of a business plan with an original grant of $100,000 from the Biotech Center.

Mary Beth Thomas, vice president of Centers of Innovation at the Biotech Center, said in a statement that the latest effort is intended “to capture and leverage the diverse strengths of North Carolina’s unique regions in ways that will grow a targeted industry sector leading to a stronger economy and the creation of good jobs.”

The first person to be hired will be an executive director who then will identify and prioritize market sectors on which the center will focus, the Biotech Center said in the announcement. The center must meet certain business milestones in order to receive all the funding and at some point must become a self-sustaining operation.

The Biotech Center has already established other Centers of Innovation that focus on nanobiotechnology, drug discovery and advanced medical technologies.

North Carolina’s Eastern Region, one of the state’s regional economic development organizations, will be the agent that oversees the office.

A location for the operation has not been selected yet

The Biotech Center worked with economic developers in eastern and southeastern NC in shaping plans for the new Center.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington and Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for Marine Science, North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology, and the Duke Marine Lab also participated in planning for the Center.

“This Marine Biotech COI will bring together key partners to identify and prioritize innovations that can satisfy an identified market need,” said John Chaffee, chief executive officer of the Eastern Region. “Ultimately, successful commercialization of marine biotech innovations will grow the sector and lead to valuable North Carolina jobs.”

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