Editor’s note: JIm Shamp is Senior Editor at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Hundreds of displays and more than 15,000 people from all over the world have started packing into Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for the 2012 BIO International Convention, which runs through June 21. But it’s highly unlikely any of the convention-goers will be able to leave the show saying they didn’t see North Carolina represented.

Dozens of people from life-science companies and institutions across the state will be making connections, touting products and services and promoting North Carolina’s excellent business climate – all at the largest-ever North Carolina Pavilion.

The high-flying banners identifying the house-size, 3,000-square-foot modular construction will draw the curious, the envious and the entrepreneurial to leave their business cards, enter drawings for iPads and a Biltmore Estate weekend and, ideally, renew their interest in doing business and creating high-quality life-science jobs for North Carolinians.

The pavilion, the result of a year-long partnership coordinated by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, is supported by 65 sponsors.

They represent the range of academic, commercial and non-profit entities that make North Carolina’s life-science landscape the third largest in the nation.

Workforce Walkway a New Pavilion Feature

In homage to North Carolina’s world-famous job-ready life-science workforce, this year’s pavilion features a Workforce Walkway. 

Representative companies, programs and academic institutions contributing to the state’s 30-year workforce transformation will be on display along the walkway transecting the pavilion.

North Carolina, near the bottom in per-capita income three decades ago, now bubbles and hums with more than 500 life-science companies enriching the lives of more than 57,000 workers – smart people earning more than $75,000 a year — nearly twice the average wage of other private-sector workers. Add in the people who service those companies, and the life-science economy accounts for 226,000 jobs statewide – and growing.

North Carolina’s world leadership in vaccine manufacturing is represented in the Walkway by Biogen Idec, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, GlaxoSmithKline, Medicago and Novartis – all global players, all major employers of North Carolina’s highly skilled workers.

Also represented is BTEC, the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center at North Carolina State University, where many of the state’s vaccine and other biomanufacturing workers have trained. The 82,500-square-foot facility features high-tech classrooms and laboratories with full-scale bioprocessing equipment. It’s even used to train inspectors from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

BTEC is part of a statewide life-science training landscape hearkening back to 1984, when the state established the Biotechnology Center as the world’s first independent non-profit economic development life-science jobs engine.

Statewide Collaboration Makes a BioImpact

To meet the growing workforce demands of the bio- and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries, the Biotechnology Center helped bring together this partnership, called NCBioImpact, also represented along the Walkway.

NCBioImpact combined the resources of North Carolina’s university and community college systems with industry expertise to form a unique collaboration producing curricula not only for BTEC, but also two other key training partners that directly support industry needs.

One is BioNetwork, the 58-campus North Carolina Community College System’s statewide initiative, including seven specialized centers providing industry-specific expertise and support to the others. The state’s BioNetwork has been hailed widely as the ultimate training system for all levels of the life-science industry.

The other leg of NCBioImpact is housed in a state-of-the-art building on the North Carolina Central University campus in Durham. BRITE, an acronym for Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise, provides undergraduate and graduate training programs in the pharmaceutical sciences. BRITE has a strong research focus, particularly in the areas of drug discovery and manufacturing process technology.

Walkway visitors will also encounter BASF Plant Science, a reminder that agriculture is approaching a $75 billion annual milestone in North Carolina’s economy. NCBiotech has established a goal of incorporating the tools of biotechnology to exceed $100 billion in a decade. BASF is one of the five top global agbio companies in North Carolina helping to build toward that goal.
Manufacturing takes on new meaning

In 1990, more than one-quarter of the state’s workforce was in manufacturing. That was nearly twice the national rate – even higher than that of Michigan and Ohio. By 2010, the number had dropped to just over 11 percent, a loss of more than 400,000 jobs.

Still, the state has a robust manufacturing economy. That’s because today, it relies on new ideas that lead to new products to create an environment for company growth and new jobs. And because a large and growing chunk of those jobs are in biomanufacturing.
North Carolina will also be represented at a Monday BIO Career Fair at the Hynes Convention Center a few blocks from the main convention & exhibition center. Wake County Economic Development will be among participants in the event, showing knowledge workers at the convention what North Carolina has to offer.

On Tuesday afternoon a panel on international collaboration in the life sciences includes participation by Bill Bullock, MBA, NCBiotech’s vice president of Bioscience Industrial Development. The discussion is titled, “Crossing Borders and Boundaries: Emerging Strategies to Promote International Collaboration.”

And that’s just a sampling of the chock-full week of back-breaking, foot-swelling partnering and promotion that is selling North Carolina at BIO.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center