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New N. Carolina Group to Help International Life-Sci Firms Set Up Shop in Piedmont Region

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By Alex Philippidis

The state-funded North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Greensboro, NC, Chamber of Commerce have joined with six partners in forming a coalition intended to help international life-sciences companies secure a US beachhead in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad region.

The Greensboro chamber will manage the new effort, officially known as the Piedmont Triad International Bioscience Business Center. The center's eight partners plan to use available space in their buildings to house international companies, and to assist them with needs that include intellectual property protection, business organization, regulatory counseling, development of market channels, and introduction to sources of capital.

"What we found is that there are a number of international companies, as well as even university scientists, that frequently come to our region. They come through many different portals," Gwyn Riddick, director of the Piedmont Triad office of the NC biotech center, told BioRegion News on Tuesday. Each year, he said, four to six such requests come through his office.

"I think this is a way that we can focus everybody's attention and everybody's resources on making sure that when [international companies and scientists] do that, we have a clearinghouse that can track what is happening, and making sure that we give those visitors the best possible connections and support services to do whatever it is they want to do," Riddick added.

No figure was immediately available on how many international life-sci businesses now have a presence in the Piedmont Triad, the triangular-shaped region framed by Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point.

Joining the chamber and NC biotech center as partners are Forsyth Technical Community College, the Winston Salem Chamber of Commerce, Duke Energy, Guilford Technical Community College, Piedmont Triad Research Park, and Gateway University Research Park.

"Future partners may be added as circumstances necessitate," according to a two-page Memorandum of Understanding signed by the partners on July 27.

The center also promises to establish connections among the region's governments, research universities, research parks, business incubators, partnering companies, and licensing venues, through their work in assisting the international biobusinesses.

Among amenities the center says it will provide:

• Furnished office with phone and data services;

• A manual entitled “How to do business in North Carolina;”

• Easier access to officials of chambers of commerce and economic development agencies;

• Access to the state's four research universities and a medical school involved in genomic science, regenerative medicine, medical technologies and devices, nanobiotechnology; and

• Commercialization opportunities with the PTRP and Gateway research parks.

"It will be just another added opportunity to broader our biotechnology base of industry and technologies," Riddick told BRN.

He said the center was not a sign that the region was now counting on overseas biobusinesses to make up for the financial hardships that the ongoing economic upheaval has handed home-grown companies.

"We have a global industry, global competition, and the United States — and specifically North Carolina — are very lucrative markets that the rest of the world wants to participate in,” Riddick said. “That means that we've got something you might say … adds value to [international life-sci firms]. So we'll make sure that we're presenting it in the best way possible."

News of the bioscience business center is the second initiative in a week designed to grow the Piedmont Triad region's biotech cluster. On Thursday, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines will meet his counterparts from 20 other North Carolina cities at Piedmont Triad Research Park within his city to begin crafting a public policy agenda for growing their biotechnology and pharmaceutical clusters.

The cities hope to wean their economies away from the manufacturing and financial services sectors that have shed tens of thousands of jobs since the early 1990s [BRN, July 24].

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