Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCUs to Participate in North Carolina Research Campus: Public, Private Partnership to Help Maintain State's Position in Biotech Innovation

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

HBCUs to Participate in North Carolina Research Campus: Public, Private Partnership to Help Maintain State's Position in Biotech Innovation

Article excerpt

North Carolina officials believe the February groundbreaking of the North Carolina Research Campus, a $1 billion, 350-acre biotechnology research park near Charlotte, will help the state maintain its dominant position in biotech innovation. Ranked third in the United States for the number of biotech firms, North Carolina has attracted and nurtured a thriving biotechnology sector, including a significant pharmaceutical presence.

North Carolina's top research universities, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, will each establish a research institute at the research campus, which is being built on the site of a former textile mill complex in Kannapolis. What is unique about the effort is that two historically Black universities, in addition to other universities and the state's community colleges, have been tapped to participate in the new research campus.

"North Carolina Central University (NCCU) will definitely be one of the players in that project," says Dr. Ken Harewood, director of that university's Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/ Biotechnology Research Institute.

Officials at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro and NCCU in Durham say the HBCUs will play significant roles at the new campus as they plan to establish their own research teams there. Officials hope the involvement of the two HBCUs will help ensure that minorities remain represented in the biotech industry, which has become an increasingly competitive segment of the global economic arena.

At North Carolina A&T, Dr. Alton Thompson, dean of the School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, says his school will sponsor a research team closely tied to N.C. State University's Institute for Advanced Fruit and Vegetable Science. The institute will develop information and technologies to advance the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables and to increase agricultural production. Thompson notes that the research is expected to help North Carolina farmers shift from dwindling markets like tobacco to popular foods traditionally not produced in high quantities in the state.

"In order for small farmers like the ones in North Carolina to produce for Dole Foods, they're going to have to develop co-ops and work with research schools to boost their productivity," Thompson says. "They can't do it individually; they have to do it collectively" to compete with the large-scale farm enterprises that dominate American agricultural production.

Harewood says NCCU's institute has built its research portfolio in health disparities work and is working out an agreement to establish a research team within the UNC-Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute. …

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