Wilmington — Do you ever wonder what’s floating North Carolina’s marine biotech boat?

How about a bed that disappears when it’s no longer needed by its oyster occupants.

Or how about a crème brûlée look-alike that’s an irresistibly tasty bait or food for crabs and lobsters? As in, up to 325 times more attractive to these beloved crustaceans than the population-challenged forage fish traditionally caught and pureed to attract and feed them.

These are just some of the technologies under development that five North Carolina entrepreneurs pitched to more than 100 global marine biotech specialists gathered in Wilmington this week. It’s all part of the sixth annual BioMarine Business Convention.

The event is being held in the United States for the first time. It was brought to Wilmington through the collaborative efforts of BioMarine owners and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and one of NCBiotech’s sector-building initiatives, the Wilmington-based Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation.

The Oct. 12 through 14 convention has provided numerous opportunities for people involved in tapping the oceans for new opportunities. Some are focused primarily on protecting the precious saltwater resources mankind is increasingly depending upon, and others involve products and processes that can provide people with new sources of food, medicines, fuel, cosmetics and other benefits.

The surface of planet Earth is about 70 percent ocean, but people still know relatively little about what these oceans contain. Significantly, careless human activities are causing potentially irreversible damage to ocean ecosystems. The scientists, business people and others gathered at the Wilmington convention are interested in using the diverse tools in the biotechnology toolbox to delay and alleviate oceans’ decline – and making money in the process.

One such entrepreneur is Niels Lindquist, Ph.D., a professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s department of marine sciences, who is also chief scientific officer of Sandbar Oyster Company.

Niels Lindquist, Chief Scientific Officer of Sandbar Oyster Company, displays an oyster-covered sample of the jute mesh the company is commercializing.

Holding up various oyster-encrusted samples of the jute mesh being commercialized by the newly established Morehead City firm, Lindquist explained to his audience that Sandbar has licensed patent rights from UNC to sell these fabric-and-filler biodegradable oyster-attracting substrates.

The fabric “beds” slathered with Portland cement or other lime-based materials are designed not only to improve production of oysters for consumer markets, but also to restore dwindling oyster habitats. The company is testing various materials through research funded by the university’s Office of Technology Development, to ensure the best product hits the market.

Lindquist said one of the key advantages of the Sandbar product is its ability to disintegrate harmlessly over time, so it doesn’t contribute to changes in the ocean environment.

Kepley Biosystems is a Greensboro company formed in 2013 to research, develop, manufacture and distribute the synthetic crustacean food as a substitute for dead fish.

CEO Anthony Dellinger told the convention attendees that the company’s OrganoBait product releases several crustacean-attracting chemicals into the water. The company aims to enter and capture the $20 billion crustacean bait market by providing an effective, cost-saving and sustainable substitute for forage fish that helps alleviate the ecological danger caused by overfishing forage fish.

Gabe Dough, founder and CEO of Greenville’s Shure Foods, described his company’s evolution since he started it in 2006 to develop better ways to process raw crabmeat.

With the help of more than $1 million in funding support, including a loan and a grant from NCBiotech, Dough told his audience that as much as 90 percent of the product potential of swimming crab is wasted by traditional harvesting methods.

Shure Foods, he said, is getting as much as three times the yield of other processes through a combination of enzyme and specialized water pressure techniques.

Lisa Day, vice president of sales at Ocis Biotechnology of Wilmington, said her company is using material derived from biological and synthetic sources to help treat burns and other skin wounds.

She said it uses an algae-based delivery system and is being developed in collaboration with Wake Forest University regenerative medicine scientists.

EnSolve Biosystems CEO Jason Caplan told the convention audience his Raleigh company, founded in 1995, is looking for a strategic partner to scale up production of its bacteria-based water cleaning systems for use in ships and other applications.

He said he’s seeking a $10 million investment to grow the company’s capacity to build and sell not only the oil-eating treatment devices, but also the components such as nutrients to feed to the oil-eating bacteria used in the devices.

– See more at: http://www.ncbiotech.org/article/oyster-boosters-crab-custard-ncs-biomarine-catalog/139441#sthash.spedynsc.dpuf