BioMarine group tours Wilmington
February 21, 2013By Vicky Janowski
Members of BioMarine, a group focused on marine bio-resources that puts on an international business convention, visited Wilmington on Thursday as part of its North Carolina tour.
Local industry and business representatives talked to the visitors about bringing the group’s annual BioMarine Business Convention to the Wilmington Convention Center in the future.
This year’s two-day convention is in Halifax, Canada. Previous ones were held in London and Nantes, France.
“When we bring BioMarine [convention] somewhere, it has to be local and international networking,” BioMarine founder and Chairman Pierre Erwes said during a lunchtime presentation to a group that included Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Connie Majure-Rhett.
The convention drew a couple thousand participants in its early years. But organizers have since scaled it down to several hundred people each year to focus on high-level players looking to invest in the biomarine industry, which includes uses ranging from health and pharmacology to renewable energy and aquafeed to cosmetics.
Erwes said about 150 CEOs attended last year’s convention in London. He added that more than 17 million euro, or $22.3 million, worth of deals came about as a result of connections at the meeting.
He, along with Veronique Erwes, chief operating officer of BioMarine, stopped in Wilmington as part of their month long tour in Canada and the U.S. East Coast.
On Thursday, they toured University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Marine Science’s aquaculture program as well as MARBIONC (the school’s facility to support marine biotech applications that’s under construction and nearing completion).
They also met with local economic development representatives, investors and convention center officials.
The group stopped in the Research Triangle Park on Wednesday to meet with biotech-related firms there as well as N.C. Biotech Center leaders.
Even if Wilmington doesn’t snag the group’s full convention, there is potential to host BioMarine-organized workshops, said Randall Johnson, executive director of the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s Southeastern Office, which hosted the visit along with the Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation.
He said the tours of Raleigh and Wilmington also were important to introduce the BioMarine reps to the biotech assets in North Carolina, both in research and business potential, so they are familiar with the state when talking to others in the industry.
“We’re at a point in North Carolina where we’re going to see a lot of this activity move to commercialization finally,” Johnson said.