Dan Baden has served as the director of the UNCW Center for Marine Science since 1999. The original Center for Marine Science building housed basic and applied scientists from Departments of Biology and Marine Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geography and Geology, Physics and Physical Oceanography and Environmental Studies. In addition, the center has an ongoing interaction with Marine Quest administered by the Watson College of Education.
Baden also serves as the executive principal of MARBIONC, Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina, and is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marine Science. Baden’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which natural marine toxins from red tide affect living systems. His most recent work is in the area of marine-derived human disease therapeutics, and he is inventor on patents in the areas of cystic fibrosis and other mucociliary diseases, neurotoxic shellfish poisoning and ciguatera fish poisoning.
In November, UNCW celebrated the grand opening of the Biotechnology Building, the most recent addition to the millennial CREST campus that offers multi-functional laboratories and houses specialized research equipment designed to catalyze university-industry partnerships and promote economic development through translational research.
“The ultimate goal is to create a vibrant environment where discovery fuels development, development fosters applications and applications yield translated products,” says Baden. “The source discovery is multifaceted, the application process invigorating and the economic returns satisfying to all parties.”
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How does MARBIONC bring businesses and scientific research together?
Through basic university science, discoveries are made which have the potential to be turned into unique products. By taking that basic science discovery and innovating around it, applications can be postulated. Applied researchers build upon the applications hypothesis and carry out studies to validate or invalidate postulated applications. Validation creates an arsenal of information that can be promoted to industry for development into new products or processes. Ultimately, it is a champion from the university and a counterpart champion in industry to make the transition from application to product. The entire process takes many different people, each with a unique talent and each being essential to the process. Very seldom does one investigator take a product from discovery through to product.
How will the work conducted in MARBIONC benefit the public?
The entire translational sciences paradigm promoted by major federal agencies and state entities surrounds a return to the public. We researchers are all aware that the resources we use for research are the result of taxpayer financing. Return is not just in knowledge, but in applications that yield a better life for North Carolinians and for the American people. This effort is not just a university process, but requires the private sector to execute on the final steps, resulting in positive public benefit.
What type of products could be developed from the sea?
- Pharmaceuticals with unique chemistry and pharmacology from algae, sponges, bacteria, fungi, gorgonians or other cultured source (unique bioactive materials)
- Products for the adhesives industry from shellfish or any benthic organism that produces substances that “stick” it in place (marine architecture)
- Antibiotics produced by marine microbes to fend off competitors (microbial biological warfare)
- Foods…such as fish, algae, shellfish, sea cucumbers, macro and micro fauna with specific ingredients like omega-fatty acids to name a few. We focus specifically on health, foods, and product testing methods.