NCBiotech-Led Coalition Wins Phase 2 Build Back Better Regional Challenge Award
A statewide coalition of public and private partner organizations and institutions, led by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, has received a Phase 2 award totaling nearly $25 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
The NCBiotech-led consortium is one of only 21 projects chosen from 60 applicants nationwide. The Phase 2 award will further strengthen North Carolina's life sciences manufacturing cluster by expanding, connecting, and promoting training and career opportunities to underserved and distressed communities, including historically excluded populations.
“This investment will boost our economy and strengthen our workforce for years to come,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “As North Carolina's life science sector continues to thrive and expand, we’re glad to keep working with the Biden-Harris Administration and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to invest in the industries that make our state great.”
The consortium submitted a Phase 2 proposal in March 2022 called “Accelerate NC - Life Sciences Manufacturing.” Coalition members and partners proposed working together on complementary projects for greater economic impact by expanding training and job opportunities in life sciences manufacturing targeting a 79-county region, with the potential of benefitting all North Carolina counties.
“This is a huge win for North Carolina’s citizens, businesses, and economy as it will take our state’s life sciences manufacturing capability to the next level,” said Bill Bullock, NCBiotech’s senior vice president for economic development and statewide operations. “This award will enable us to attract and develop a more diverse workforce to manufacture vaccines, gene and cell therapies, antibodies, and other medicines. Enabling greater equity for our underserved populations as well as those in distressed and rural communities is essential. We are grateful to the EDA, our state leaders, including the Governor and the General Assembly’s bipartisan Life Sciences Caucus, the NC Biosciences Organization, and the many community, university, and industry partners that contributed to this transformative project.”
Funding will be used for the following projects:
- Workforce Diversification—Led by North Carolina Central University’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), this project will establish six training hubs at North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities1 and at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, the state’s sole Historically American Indian University. The training hubs will deliver hands-on short courses on manufacturing biopharmaceuticals to an inclusive and diverse population.
- Expand Training Access and Faculty Recruitment—Led by the North Carolina Community College System, the NC BioBetter project2 will bolster the number of trained life sciences manufacturing workers by enrolling citizens from across the state in BioWork and other life sciences training programs expanded through this funding. Ten community colleges and the North Carolina Community College System BioNetwork will develop and deliver training. Recruitment will focus on historically excluded, rural and distressed populations. Additionally, this project will expand the faculty delivering BioWork and related training programs by recruiting and training credentialed personnel through an innovative immersion program.
- Community Engagement—Led by NCBiotech, this project will launch ambassador and apprenticeship programs to increase awareness of, and access to, life sciences manufacturing training and job opportunities. The project will also connect high school seniors in Pitt County and participants in Made in Durham’s BULLS program with free life sciences manufacturing training. NCBiotech will forge connections among coalition members, community leaders, training partners and industry, removing barriers to training and job opportunities for underserved individuals in both urban and rural communities.
Key industry partners, led by Novo Nordisk, provided matching funds to these projects.
“At Novo Nordisk, we are strongly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Doug Langa, North American president of operations at Novo Nordisk. “We know building and supporting a diverse population of highly skilled workers that reflect the diversity of the patients we serve is essential to our success. We are proud to partner with state and local stakeholders on the projects that share this commitment and increase North Carolina’s biotech industry talent pipeline.”
Another significant industry financial supporter is Amgen.
“Our pledge of financial support for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge reinforces our commitment to having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our patients and our communities,” added Bob Kenyon, Amgen’s vice president, site operations in North Carolina. “We are proud to engage with our partners to expand training, access, and awareness of life sciences manufacturing so that North Carolinians will have improved opportunities to engage in this dynamic field.”
Other companies contributing matching funds include Biogen, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, Pfizer, and others. Additional partners, including Thermo Fisher Scientific, other companies, universities, and organizations from across North Carolina, also provided critical support for the Coalition projects.
Under the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March 2021, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental economic development funding. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many programs developed by the EDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development nationwide. The regional challenge program aims to accelerate economic recovery, especially from negative impacts of the pandemic, and at building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. It is the largest economic development initiative from the Department of Commerce in decades.
1 HBCUs/HAIUs involved include Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Livingstone College, North Carolina Central University, Saint Augustine's University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Winston-Salem State University.
2 Community colleges involved in the NC BioBetter project include Alamance Community College, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Central Carolina Community College, Durham Tech Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, Johnston Community College, Pitt Community College, Vance-Granville Community College, Wake Technical Community College, and Wilson Community College.