N.C. Gets $25M to Build Life Sciences Mfg Cluster

The money will help expand, connect and promote training and career opportunities to underserved and distressed communities.

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A statewide coalition of public and private partner organizations and institutions led by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBiotech) has received a Phase 2 award totaling nearly $25 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 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.

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.

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, 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 Bennett College, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingston College, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, Saint Augustine University, Shaw 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, Johnston Community College, Piedmont Community College, Pitt Community College, Vance-Granville Community College, Wake Technical Community College, and Wilson Community College.