Tuesday, December 08, 2009

8th annual Charlotte Biotechnology Conference: “uniting and leveraging resources to maintain and foster new developments”

The blog was submitted by Martin Stinson, our business development analyst in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

I was pleased to attend the 8th annual Charlotte Biotechnology Conference at the beautiful new Bioinformatics & Genomics Center on the campus of UNCC.  Sponsored by the Charlotte Research Institute, attendees included biotechnology and life sciences industry leaders, government and finance partners, as well as faculty and students from several surrounding colleges and universities.  Participants numbered well over 300, making this year’s event their largest ever.

With so many economic challenges in the U.S. and worldwide over the last 18 months, many of the presentations and discussions were related to uniting and leveraging resources to maintain and foster new developments in the biotechnology sector.

The consensus was that our region has done an outstanding job in collaborating and networking to overcome these challenges.  As a result, North Carolina is now #3 in the biotechnology field, trailing only California and Massachusetts.  While funding and resources may be somewhat more scarce than in the recent past, these are still very exciting times in the industry and many expect that renewed growth is not far away.

Specifically, the Greater Charlotte region is home to more than two dozen bioscience companies in a variety of fields including nutrition studies, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and computational biology. The region also has North Carolina’s largest concentration of biomedical device companies.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Anthony Atala, renowned surgeon and researcher from Wake Forest University.  Dr. Atala provided a fascinating look into the world of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and stem cell biology.  The advances in growing new human tissues and organs are absolutely incredible.  The work in this field by experts like Dr. Atala and others will certainly play a significant role in the medical profession’s ability to repair or replace substantially more diseased tissues and organs in the future.

Just prior to his presentation, Dr. Atala showed a video called “Nano Girls”, a spoof on PhD candidates and their work in the lab, created by UNCC graduate student Kevin Major and his team.  For those of you in the mood for a good chuckle, check out this link:

Other topics and speakers included:

Future Trends in Biotechnology Funding
  • Michael Luther, PhD, President, David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI)
  • June Blalock, Office of Technology Transfer, US Department of Agriculture
  • Daniel Shaughnessy, PhD, Program Administrator, Susceptibility and Population Health Branch Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health 
  • Joanne Tornow, PhD, Senior Advisor, Office of the Assistant Director, Directorate for the Biological Sciences, National Science Foundation
The State of Biotechnology in the Charlotte Region
  • Mark Rumsey, News Host & Community Engagement Coordinator, WFAE-FM
  • Simon Pedder, PhD, CEO and Founder, Chelsea Therapeutics International, Inc.
  • Tammy Trexler-Whaley, Regional Manager, Economic Development, Duke Energy 
  • Todd Wiebusch, CEO and Board President, Saebo, Inc.
Research Highlights
  • Daniel B. Vorhaus, Attorney - Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson - “Commercialization Strategies for Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical & Genomics Research”
  • Mirsad Hadzikadic, PhD, Director - NC Complex Systems Institute, UNC Charlotte - “Complex Software Systems and 411fit.com”
  • Jeffrey A. Kline, MD, Director - Emergency Medical Research, Carolinas Medical Center - “Commercializable Research from CMC” 
  • Carol Cheatham, PhD, Assistant Professor - Nutrition Research Institute, UNC Chapel Hill - “Nutrition Impact on Pediatric Brain Development”
  • Pinku Mukherjee, PhD, Irwin Belk Endowed Scholar for Cancer Research & Associate Professor of Biology, UNC Charlotte - “Pancreatic Cancer Progression and Metastasis”

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