If business model is approved, new center could get $2.4 million over four years.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is providing $100,000 to help with the planning of a virtual Center of Innovation (COI). The center’s goal is to speed the transition of drug candidates from the research stage to the market.

The Drug Discovery Center of Innovation, a multi-institution partnership coordinated by The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, will initially focus on oncology. This aligns with the N.C. General Assembly’s commitment to cancer research through its $50 million annual contribution to the University Cancer Research Fund.

The planning grant will be used to create a business model for the center. Once the business plan is approved by the Biotechnology Center, the COI is eligible for a $2.5 million award over four years.

In addition to The Hamner, other partners include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, Campbell University, Duke University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Wake Forest University.

“This Center of Innovation will accelerate the development of new, safer drugs as we link cutting-edge research in North Carolina’s academic institutions with the needs of biotech and pharmaceutical companies,” says Rick Williams, CBO of The Hamner and a member of the planning team. “One of our goals is to create a strategic network of drug development resources throughout the state that we can draw upon to advance promising new discoveries.”

Stephen Frye, director of UNC’s Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, adds, “The creation of a Center of Innovation focused on drug discovery comes at a propitious moment for both academic research and the pharmaceutical industry. Academics are actively seeking mechanisms for translation of their discoveries toward the clinic, while the industry is struggling to continue supporting their own internal discovery efforts, providing an environment that is ripe for new models to advance the application of scientific knowledge to the treatment of disease.”

The COI program targets industry sectors within North Carolina whose development could yield significant economic benefits for the state. Other sectors of attention are nanobiotechnology, marine biotechnology, advanced medical technologies, and natural biotechnology and integrative medicine.

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