Life Science Sector Gains Strength in Charlotte, NC

Life science jobs are alive and well in North Carolina's Greater Charlotte Region, where manufacturing, biotechnology, research and academia comprise one of the nation's most innovative networks.

Kevin Litwin
On Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 12:09
Charlotte, NC

From medical device manufacturing to nutrition research to pharmaceuticals, the Charlotte USA region is a lab leader, cultivating innovation in manufacturing, biotechnology, research and academia.

A spearhead of that growth is the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Through the NCBC, the state's 227,000 biotech professionals receive support in research, business, education and strategic policy.

"Charlotte's thriving life sciences sector has a lot to do with workforce, connectivity and a robust treasure trove for innovation," says Marjorie Benbow, director of the NCBC's Greater Charlotte office. "One of the reasons we can sustain tremendous growth of life sciences is our forte in bioinformatics and health informatics. That's how we unlock discoveries, and it's something that's very unique to this region."

North Carolina Research Campus

In Kannapolis in Cabarrus County, the North Carolina Research Campus is a $1 billion, 350-acre technology park committed to advancements in biotechnology, nutrition and health. The public-private venture is home to many of the world's top scientific minds and research efforts from universities including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Charlotte.

Dole Food Co. relocated its Dole Nutrition Research Institute to the Kannapolis campus from California in 2010. Nicholas Gillitt, Ph.D., director of Dole's Nutrition Research Lab, says access to university research, cutting-edge equipment, and laboratory and office space made NCRC an obvious choice.

"All of the institutions we partner with are already on this campus," Gillitt says. "Instead of calling all over the country and working with partners in different time zones, I can literally walk out of my office and knock on their doors. It's a natural fit to have our scientific research and development located on this campus."

At UNC Charlotte, experts access the 75,000-square-foot Bioinformatics Research Center, designed to provide research, education and facilities in the field of genomic data. And through North Carolina Community College System's BioNetwork, area colleges now offer specialized training in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and life sciences.

"Community colleges are a great gauge for knowing how an industry is doing," Benbow says. "They're not about training people for jobs that aren't there, but about working hand-in-hand with industries to make sure people are employed."

The life sciences sector is attracting new companies and expanding across the region.

In Monroe in Union County, N.C., Greiner Bio-One North America is a world leader in life science and clinical lab products including blood collection tubes and microplates. A wholly owned subsidiary of Austria's Greiner Bio-One International, the company opened its North American headquarters in 2000. Today, Greiner Bio-One North America operates from nearly 200,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in Monroe.

"We chose Union County for its location with respect to operational logistics, transportation and excellent infrastructure which allowed us to quickly move into manufacturing," says Kevin Daugherty, director of marketing for Greiner Bio-One North America.

Linet Americas Locates in Charlotte USA

Charlotte USA also is home to major hospital systems and cutting-edge medical research facilities such as the James G. Cannon Research Center, an affiliate of Carolinas HealthCare System.

That expertise helps build promising new companies like Linet Americas. A leading manufacturer of hospital beds and patient room equipment in more than 70 countries, European-based Linet established its North American headquarters in Charlotte in 2009.

"We chose Charlotte because of its strong health care platform and great nursing schools, which we work closely with," says Summer Zifko, marketing director for Linet Americas.

Location and accessibility also were key factors. "International customers can fly in, visit our showroom and be back home the same day," Zifko says. "Nearby ports also allow us to receive shipments from our parent company at the lowest cost of entry."


Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.