13 OF '13
Aerial view of CREST Research Park
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The Business Case for Research

With the Nov. 18 opening of the Biotechnology Building at CREST Research Park, University of North Carolina Wilmington researchers are now able to work side by side with entrepreneurs and others developing products, technologies and processes that will benefit society using the marine organisms they are culturing.

"Designed by scientists for scientists," the structure was engineered to withstand a Category 3 hurricane. The labs are designed for ease of use - an open floor plan and modular pieces will allow researchers to configure their labs based on the needs of their projects. Communal access to technologies eliminates the high cost of purchasing such equipment and allows samples to be processed within the work environment, eliminating the need to ship them to another research facility.

Since 2004, scientists with MARBIONC at UNCW's Center for Marine Science have been researching ways to help sustain harvestable marine species and have progressed in the development of diagnostic tools and culturing of marine entities. The basis for this research is to improve advancement in global problems related to food, energy and health. Some of the algae research completed by MARBIONC scientists is on its way to providing the basis for a medicine that will help cure the lung disease cystic fibrosis.

The new interdisciplinary research facility houses MARBIONC and offers established firms, entrepreneurial startups, government agencies, universities focusing on biotechnology, analytical services, environmental sciences and early stage pharmaceutical research and development flexible workspace and access to the most advanced biotech labs and equipment on the East Coast.

"The Biotechnology Building is an important addition not only to UNCW but to the Southeastern region," said Chancellor Gary L. Miller. "We are committed to working with our partners to provide economic opportunities for our graduates and our region. The Biotechnology Building will do that by bringing in global companies who want to capitalize on this innovative research space."

"The long-term vision is to create a knowledge-based research park in Wilmington somewhat like the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh," said Jeff Wright, principal and research director of MARBIONC Development Group. "We plan to be joined by private groups who see the benefits of a research park like this in Wilmington that is associated with UNCW. Together, we aim to translate our research discoveries into products and processes that will benefit the economy and stimulate growth in the region."

Ocis Biotechnology and its cosmetic arm, Custom Skin Care DRx, were the first to move into a suite of office and lab space at the building. The company creates both therapeutic and cosmetic skin care products derived in a sustainable manner from marine sources, according to its website.

The 69,000-square-foot Biotechnology Building was funded by a $15 million NIST Federal Department of Commerce grant matched by a university bond.

"This project was designed to create translational science space, space that fosters the migration of basic science results into applied development, ultimately translating into products and processes. The translational mode of operation ensures that our basic science funding has the best chance of translating into good results for the American people," said Dan Baden, director of the Center for Marine Science and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marine Science.

The Biotechnology Building is just one part of UNCW's new research park, CREST (Campus for Research, Entrepreneurship, Services and Teaching) that includes the Shellfish Research Hatchery that opened in 2010.