A diverse health-care and biotechnology sector that includes everything from medical device manufacturing to nutrition research to pharmaceuticals makes Charlotte USA a leader in life sciences innovation. Bolstered by a highly educated workforce and by high-caliber research universities, the region has developed a growing cluster of life sciences companies engaged in everything from nutrition research to medical devices. Several companies have either relocated their operations or opened major divisions in the region.
Among the recent arrivals is Aramark Corp, which in 2012 invested $150 million in its new Charlotte-based Aramark Healthcare Technologies division, which provides technology solutions to help health-care systems cut expenses while providing higher-quality patient care. Startups such as KenCord Biotherapeutics LLC, a pharmaceutical company, launched with $15 million from a Texas private-equity firm, also find Charlotte USA a good place to do business. “The Charlotte area has such a diversity of assets, and that’s what gives us the ability to attract a number of health and life science startups to our region,” says Corie Curtis, executive director of North Carolina Biotechnology Center's Greater Charlotte regional office.
A Diversified Sector
Supporting life sciences innovation in the region are a cadre of major health-care providers including Carolinas Healthcare System, Presbyterian Healthcare and Caromont. Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) is among the largest public health-care system in the U.S. CHS' Levine Cancer Institute is renowned for its expertise in cancer care, treating more than 11,000 patients each year, drawing some of the world's top medical talent, and advancing research through numerous clinical trials.
Charlotte USA is fertile ground for growth in the medical device industry. With the largest concentration of medical device manufacturers in the Carolinas, the region claims more than 280 medical device and equipment companies such as Linet Americas, a leader in the design and manufacturer of high-tech hospital beds. Research companies enjoy access to the area’s leading universities, top scientific talent and the latest equipment, assets that help them bring their discoveries to market quickly and efficiently.
Partnerships Create Innovative Care
A catalyst for life sciences research and innovation is The North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, N.C. At this $1 billion, 350-acre “biopolis,” scientists research how to improve the productivity and nutrition of food. The biotech campus also houses research programs for leading-edge private biotechnology, health-care companies and major North Carolina research universities. The Charlotte Research Institute, in partnership with regional corporate and entrepreneurial interests, has developed several concentrated hubs including eBusiness Technology Institute, Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications. UNC Charlotte’s Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics includes facilities for molecular biology, genomics and high-performance computing.
"We're producing graduates who are skilled in bioinformatics and who contribute to private industry and the public sector in Charlotte and beyond," says Dr. Daniel Janies, UNCC’s Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics. Innovator CanDiag Inc., a UNC Charlotte spinoff, is researching early-stage cancer detection through antibody-based blood tests that would reduce patient expense while avoiding unnecessary biopsies.
Another example of life sciences collaboration in the region is Edison Nation Medical LLC, a partnership between Edison Nation and Carolinas HealthCare System. The online initiative is the brainchild of Louis Foreman, creator of the popular Everyday Edisons program on PBS and a Charlotte USA resident. Edison Nation Medical is promoting innovation in medical device development. It will present the most promising submitted innovations ideas to major health-care providers, manufacturers and distributors, invest in qualified selected ideas, and help bring them to market at no cost to the inventor. Health care is the area that is ripe for disruption, Foreman says, the type of disruption that can come from the development of new ideas.
“We collect ideas from doctors, nurses, patients and their families. We’re able to aggregate those great health-care ideas that would either improve health care, lower costs or improve the outcome,” Foreman says. “Because Carolinas HealthCare System is a partner in this, in many cases, they become a first adopter of these new technologies."