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UNCW Outlook Conference To Focus On Contract Research Industry

By Jenny Callison, posted Oct 9, 2013

Contract research organizations will be in the spotlight at Thursday’s Outlook: Building Economic Clusters conference, presented by the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business and Swain Center for Business and Economic Services.

The annual conference is a forum for an examination of the Cape Fear region’s economic activity and forecasts.

A panel discussion about the contract research industry, which is well represented in the Port City, will involve representatives from Biostudy Solutions, Modoc Research and Quality Chemical Laboratories. A former PPD researcher is also on the panel, which is moderated by Charles Hardy, dean of UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services.

Randall Johnson, executive director of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s southeastern office, has worked closely with Outlook organizers at UNCW on the conference, as he did last year, when the cluster focus was on marine biotechnology.

“The contract research industry cluster is vital to our local economy,” Johnson said. “We chose this topic for the conference to showcase the diversity of the cluster. The obvious strong company here is PPD, an international company, but there are also smaller entrepreneurial ventures that add to a diverse knowledge-sector economy.”

Johnson said there are more than 20 CROs and about 36 support companies locally that have been identified. He said that UNCW has some “educational gems” in the way of programs that have worked with the CRO community to identify curriculum and other educational opportunities for students that will prepare them for careers in the field.

Those opportunities are broad, said Rebecca Porterfield, associate dean of the Cameron School of Business and director of the Swain Center. She said that UNCW collaborates closely with the CRO industry in the area beyond just making sure that programs exist to prepare students for those careers.

“We have internships and a lot of graduate practicums in these companies,” Porterfield said. “We’ve involved a lot of these companies with our learning alliances and with projects across a number of graduate programs.”

Porterfield said the choice of the term “economic clusters” in the conference was a deliberate one.

“The concept of economic cluster is an important one. Within a cluster, you have larger companies that attract smaller companies to support them, and in turn, other companies that support them. It creates a solid economic base, and is an excellent model for economic development. The clinical research cluster is an exemplary one; when you see that type of cluster, it’s a rallying point within a community to focus on for future economic development.”

The event runs from 8-11 a.m., with the annual economic outlook segment starting at 8:15 a.m.

UNCW economists Thomas Simpson and Woody Hall will present their perspectives, with Simpson providing a national outlook and Hall analyzing the local picture.

The contract research portion of the program begins at 8:45 a.m.

Cameron School of Business dean Larry Clark will moderate a real estate panel starting at 10:15 a.m., following the segment on contract research organizations. Featured panelists are Ken Dull of McKinley Building Corp., Teresa Huffmon of Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners and Chris Livengood of Intracoastal Realty.

The Outlook conference takes place at the Burney Center on the UNCW campus.

Online registration has closed but walk-in registration is still available beginning at 7:30 a.m.

For more information click here.

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