International BioMarine leaders converge on Wilmington

Published: Oct. 13, 2015 at 2:21 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 17, 2015 at 2:22 AM EDT
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UNCW’s MARBIONIC center provides workspace and support for marine biotechnology companies....
UNCW’s MARBIONIC center provides workspace and support for marine biotechnology companies. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Marine biotechnology leaders from around the world are gathered in Wilmington this week.

The BioMarine Business Convention provides scientists and business executives a chance to invest in products and hear from others about the latest research dealing in biotechnology.

This is the first time they will meet in the United States. The previous venues have included Portugal and Norway.

More than 17 countries will be represented at the convention this week.

According to officials, Wilmington was decided because it is a strong city with marine bio-technology. There are many companies in the Port City, as well as a big department at UNCW.

Executive Director of the Southeastern Biotechnology Center Randall Johnson said this is a great time for networking and business opportunities.

"We want these company leaders and these government dignitaries to look at Wilmington, look at North Carolina, see the opportunities for commercialization and technology transfers and general economic development in a way that they decide to have a portion of their company located here or licensed technology from UNCW or from companies here. So it's a big deal for us from a jobs perspective and an economic development perspective," Johnson said.

Mayor Bill Saffo said he hopes conferees leave understanding the resources Wilmington offers the marine biotechnology industry.

"When you can hold a conference of this magnitude and this stature in our community, that says a lot about the things we've been doing here," Saffo said.

John Sweetman arrived in Wilmington Monday for the convention. He is an international project manager for U.K-based Alltech, an animal health company.

Sweetman said he thinks Wilmington can boost its marine biotechnology industry by focusing on small, innovative companies.

"I think you have to give these little guys a chance to really stand up and do something new," Sweetman said.

UNCW Wilmington supports marine biotechnology through MARBIONIC, an economic development program that discovers, develops and markets new products from the sea. MARBIONIC provides workspace and resources for start-up and established companies at the university's CREST Research Campus off Masonboro Loop Road.

"We have companies from as far away as New York and Atlanta that have selected southeast North Carolina as their new home," said Steve Fontana, MARBIONIC's senior technology development officer.

Fontana said he hopes the BioMarine convention will allow UNCW to expand its collaboration with the industry. He explained the university has partnerships around the world stretching from Oman to Canada.

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