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Biomarine Event Aims To Be Technology Showcase, Business Matchmaker

By Jenny Callison, posted Oct 8, 2015
A three-day event next week will put Wilmington and the region’s biomarine initiatives in the international spotlight.

The Biomarine Business Convention, which has announced it is attracting about 300 company officials, scientists and government representatives from 17 countries, opens Monday and runs through Wednesday. It provides a forum for discussion of the latest in technology and markets in the biomarine economy.  

It’s also – importantly – a place where deals get made, Randall Johnson, executive director of the southeastern office of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, said recently.

At last year’s convention, held in Cascais, Portugal, more than €55 million in deals was reported, Johnson said.  He noted that, at this year’s sessions, 15 companies will present their pitches, five of them North Carolina companies. One of those, Ocis Biotechnology, is based in Wilmington. Ocis uses material derived from biological or synthetic sources to influence biological processes such as wound healing, specifically for military service members who have suffered burns, according to a news release.

Johnson and Deb Mosca, CEO of the Wilmington-based Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation (MBCOI), are the primary local organizers of the convention, which is in its sixth year. This will be the first time this event has been held in the U.S.

The focus of this year’s convention, according to a news release, is sustainable ocean harvesting and the world’s growing demand for protein, as well as ways in which the biomarine industry is “actively developing” solutions to address the “imminent shortage” of protein.

“Today, vegetable protein from microalgae and seaweed extract feeds not only the aquaculture industry, but also the poultry, pork and cattle industries,” the release stated.

The selection of one major speaker reflects that focus. Pierre Calleja, CEO and founder of France-based Fermentalg, will speak twice during the convention. His company specializes in producing oils and proteins derived from the “exceptional properties” of microalgae, according to a second news release, which added that Fermentalg’s technology has applications for nutrition, animal feed, cosmetics, health care, green chemistry and energy.

In addition to giving an opportunity for biomarine businesses to pitch themselves to potential investors and partners, Johnson said he and Mosca have three ancillary goals for the convention.

“We want to gain visibility internationally for Wilmington, the southeastern region, and the state of North Carolina; we want to attract new investment, technologies, talent and companies to the region and state; and we want to build international partnerships for further research and commercialization in marine biotechnology,” he said.

The third goal plays to the mission of the MBCOI, which is to facilitate information exchange, collaboration and commercialization of marine biotechnologies among stakeholders in North Carolina, the U.S. and abroad.

“Deb Mosca can help broker deals between all kinds of entities,” Johnson said.

The Biomarine Business Convention has received strong support from state and local government officials, from Gov. Pat McCrory to Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo, according to Johnson. Representatives from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will be on hand, as will Saffo, he said.

To learn more about the Biomarine Business Convention, click here.
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