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Granted, Nice Things Are Happening in NC

photos courtesy of (l to r): NCSU, and UNC-W

It was a bit like trying to deliver “Tweet Notes” about a Dickens novel.

I had just five minutes to tell my RTP audience how NCBiotech grants help North Carolina. That’s a tall order. We distributed more than 133 grants worth more than $8.3 million across the state in fiscal 2013 alone.

Here’s how it went down the evening of December 10, 2013, during my part of an often rollicking, occasionally touching, amazingly informative Research Triangle Foundation RTP180: Philanthropy event:

  • NCBiotech awards grants to universities and not-for-profit institutions across the state in support of economic development through biotechnology. Our grants go to feed, heal, and fuel the world… all from right here in North Carolina.
  • Our grants impact your life by improving human health, crops and farming, the environment, and food quality and availability. And while we’ve given grants to improve broccoli, since it was an RTP180 event, what people cared most about was what we’d done recently to improve their beer, like the craft brews they were sampling this night. Fermentation, if you aren’t aware, is considered the oldest example of biotechnology. Yes, your beer – and your wine – is a product of biotechnology.

If there is a way to increase economic development through biotechnology, it’s likely NCBiotech has a program for that.

Then I shared some examples:

  • Currently there are 35,000 cornea transplants each year in the United States. However, there are not enough organ donors for all the needed transplants. So NCBiotech gave a grant to researchers at Wake Forest University in the Triad region to investigate ways to grow new corneas in the lab. The impact on Your Health will be safe cornea replacement on demand.
  • The dogwood is North Carolina’s state flower. But two major diseases impact dogwoods. So NCBiotech gave a grant to researchers at North Carolina State University in the Western region to develop disease resistant dogwood. The impact on Your State is potential annual sales of $69 million in disease resistant dogwood varieties and a healthy dogwood population.
  • Recently there has been a lot of publicity about honeybee health, and most people know that bee health is in decline. There is some concern that pesticides are contributing to the problem. Bees and insects pollinate ¾ of our crops, so bee health is important to us. NCBiotech gave a grant to researchers at UNC Greensboro and Wake Forest University to develop a test for pesticide toxicity to bees. The impact of improved bee health on Your Environment will be $15 billion in the U.S., which is the value of those insect pollinated crops each year, lower food cost and increased food security.
  • Even more directly impacting your food, 70% of finfish are overexploited. So NCBiotech gave a grant to researchers at UNC Wilmington in the Southeastern region to improve fish farming. The impact on Your Food is a potential $1 billion annual market for farmed sea bass and safe, fresh, cost-effective, sustainably raised finfish.
  • Though fermentation is the original biotechnology, and NC has a vibrant craft brewing industry, quality control testing is expensive and inefficient for small brewers. So NCBiotech gave a grant to AB Tech Community College in the Western region to build a local quality control testing lab and train technicians to staff it. The impact on Your Beer is being enjoyed by 84 NC breweries – and their customers. Cheers!

In the years from 2001 to 2010 jobs in NC’s private sector declined by almost 3% but in the same period the NC bioscience sector increased 23.5%, in part because of these grants and other NCBiotech programs. We have more than 500 companies engaged in biosciences, with 58,000+ employees earning an average salary of $78,000. The impact on Your NC Economy is $59 billion in economic activity.

If the theme of this holiday season event had been “Naughty or Nice,” I think you’d agree, that’s nice!

If you'd like to see the YouTube Livestream video of the event, click here.

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