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UNC Wilmington Receives $15 Million Grant for MARBIONC Facility

The University of North Carolina Wilmington's Center for Marine Science (CMS) was awarded a $15 million matching grant Monday

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The University of North Carolina Wilmington's Center for Marine Science (CMS) was awarded a $15 million matching grant Monday, July 20, 2009 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the construction of a new Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina facility at UNCW.

The new facility will house MARBIONC, a program that focuses on the application of marine biotechnology for health, food and energy. Research areas include drug discovery, detection technologies for human-origin marine pollutants and biotoxins from microorganisms, and algae farming for biofuels and mariculture. "From an economic development perspective, we've been seeking to consolidate North Carolina's marine biotechnology under a single roof, and this MARBIONC facility brings us one step closer to that reality," said Jeffrey Wright, a principal and director for research at MARBIONC.

Construction for the new, 69,000 square foot facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009 on land UNCW acquired in 2005 specifically for this purpose. It will include 12 laboratories, three large incubator laboratories for cultured research organisms, offices and other spaces for holding meetings and housing materials. "The specialized equipment, environmental chambers and large, modular multi-functional laboratories will be the leading characteristics that will optimize university and industry interactions, and, at the same time, will expedite the efficient transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace," said Steve Fontana, Senior Technology Development Director for UNCW and the MARBIONC program.

Marine biotechnology is one of the latest and most promising areas of biotechnology, which has had a significant impact on the everyday lives of people. Some of the goals envisioned and expected to come to fruition include new cures for sicknesses and diseases, new food sources to feed the hungry and new, carbon-neutral sources of raw energy to supplement diminishing petroleum reserves.

"The global biotechnology market is expected to top $226 billion by 2010. Ten percent of that includes various areas of marine biotechnology – from toxins and therapeutics, such as shellfish poisoning and cystic fibrosis, to mariculture," said Daniel Baden, director of UNCW's Center for Marine Science and executive principal for MARBIONC. "This facility will help us aggressively develop the next generation of biotechnology platforms and technologies, all based on marine resources and all employing the same financial models that serve the larger biotechnology sector," Baden said.

To receive the grant, which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NIST required applicants to meet specific goals related to scientific and technical merit, as well as other objectives outlined in the Recovery Act that address job creation and preservation and long-term economic development benefits.

Source: University of North Caroline Wilmington