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NC Nanobiotech Center to Use $2.5M Grant to Commercialize Research from State Universities

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The North Carolina Biotechnology Center said yesterday that it has approved a four-year $2.5 million grant for the Center of Innovation in Nanobiotechnology to help commercialize nanobiotech research from the state's universities.

The center, abbreviated COIN, is one of four Centers of Innovation created by the NCBC since last year with a $100,000 planning grant from NCBC, and the second to receive a Phase II award meant to help COIN establish itself as an independent, self-sustaining entity, NCBC said.

The $2.5 million will be paid as specific undisclosed business milestones are reached, NCBC added.

Chris Brodie, director of communications and media relations for NCBC, told BTW this week that COIN is meant to act as a "giant commercialization facilitator" for cutting-edge nanobiotech research at North Carolina universities.

"Rather than let [technology] sit on the shelf [at universities], COIN will find someone that can use the technology," Brodie said. "The technology might not be the kind of thing that is ready to form a company around or to attract a licensing partner immediately," he added, so the center will look into ways to further advance the technology or bundle it with other IP from schools and companies statewide.

"Once the center is up and running, it will have people who understand tech transfer, are able to communicate with scientists [at universities], in industry, and with startup companies to discuss ways to commercialize research," he added. "A lot of the success is going to come down to the individuals we bring in there."

COIN has thus far primarily partnered with North Carolina A&T State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Wake Forest University.

"This is the first major grant developed jointly by these three research universities," Gwyn Riddick, director of the NCBC's Piedmont Triad Office, said in a statement. "In developing nanobiotechnology, we aim to create a strong, region-specific science brand for the Piedmont Triad and the state."

Eventually, COIN will seek to cull nanobiotech research from universities state-wide, public and private, Brodie said. In particular, the center will immediately begin to seek commercialization routes for nanobiotech research from Duke University, NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC-Charlotte.

As reported in March by BTW sister publication BioRegion News, COIN was expected to receive the Phase II grant this summer after having hired as executive director Brooks Adams, a Richmond, Va.-based professional with 14 years of life-science industry experience.

In March, NCBC approved a similar Phase II $2.5 million grant for the Center of Innovation in Advanced Medical Technologies. The other two Centers of Innovation – in drug discovery and marine biotechnology – are currently in the planning phase under a $100,000 Phase I NCBC grant.

"In some ways, COIN is a little bit ahead of the Center of Innovation in Advanced Medical Technologies because it's already got its executive director in place," Brodie said.

Between 2008 and 2012, the NCBC plans to work with university researchers, tech-transfer offices, industrial partners, non-profits, and regional and statewide community leaders to establish nine total Centers of Innovation, NCBC said.

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