North Carolina’s economy could receive a welcome boost in coming years from an unexpected source — nanotechnology.
The 16th annual Commercialization of Micro-Nano Systems Conference, hosted by an international nanotechnology foundation, was held this week at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. The four-day convention ends today.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., gave a keynote speech at the event and emphasized the importance of the budding nanotechnology field to the state’s economy.
“While North Carolina may be better known for the three ‘b’s — barbecue, beaches and basketball — this conference solidifies North Carolina’s position as a state ahead of the curve,” she said.
Hagan also said in prepared remarks that the biotechnology industry supports nearly a quarter of a million jobs in the state and contributes more than $64 billion to the state’s economy.
Laura Faulconer, director of innovation projects at the Durham-based Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, said the newly founded Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in Greensboro is one of only 39 programs worldwide that offers a doctorate in nanotechnology.
The school, which opened last fall, is a joint program between UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University.
“This is going to attract new companies to the area that want the joint school graduates to become their employees,” said Jim Roberts, director of membership and fundraising at the center.
Joseph DeSimone, a chemistry professor at UNC-CH who attended the conference, said nanotechnology involves working with matter at the nanometer scale, which is one billionth of a meter.
Working at this scale reveals properties of matter not seen at a larger scale, he said.
For example, it’s possible to produce vaccines based on nanoparticles that mimic pathogens.
DeSimone, who co-founded the biotechnology company Liquidia Technologies in 2004 in Durham, primarily works in developing vaccines and therapeutics.
With a total of 80 nanotechnology companies statewide, Roberts said North Carolina ranks 8th among other state in the field, and Raleigh ranks 4th among all cities nationwide.
Hagan said North Carolina could rival Silicon Valley and Boston in the biotechnology field in the future.
“I hear from business owners all the time that they want to bring their company to our state, that this is where they want to live and to retire,” she said.
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