Collaboration and Partnership to Establish a Pharmaceutical Powerhouse

GREENVILLE, NC (March 2, 2015) – East Carolina University (ECU) and Pitt Community College (PCC) will partner to create the East Coast’s finest training center for biomanufacturing and pharmaceuticals with funds provided by the Golden LEAF Foundation. Additional support from the North Carolina Community College System’s NCWorks Customized Training and BioNetwork will enhance the planned facilities and programs.

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors voted unanimously at its February meeting to provide $1,750,000 – the largest such grant this year – to ECU ($1,100,000) and PCC ($650,000).  The funds at each institution will be used to establish the Biopharmaceutical Work Force Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

The Board had earlier reserved funding for this purpose as part of North Carolina’s efforts to recruit Patheon to expand in Greenville.  Governor Pat  McCrory announced this expansion of an estimated 488 jobs while wearing purple and gold in October of 2014.  Golden LEAF Board members did not award this funding until Patheon could work closely with ECU and PCC to establish a program both for their needs and for other companies in the region, both to fill new jobs and existing vacancies.

The creation of the Biopharmaceutical Work Force Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence is a model economic and work force development collaboration.  PCC, ECU, the NC Community College BioNetwork, and Pitt County are partnering to develop an educational and training infrastructure for a 21st century pharmaceutical services workforce to meet the labor and expertise needs of Patheon and other companies.

The biomanufacturing sector is clearly growing in eastern North Carolina. Over 8,000 people are directly employed in pharmaceutical manufacturing in Johnston, Wilson, Nash, and Pitt Counties.  Companies such as RTI, the manufacturer of a sterile biomedical device, are also growing in Pitt County.

“We believe this investment will give assurance not only to a great company like Patheon, but other companies as well, that they will have the capable workforce at all educational levels to allow them to compete globally,” said Dan Gerlach, President of the Golden LEAF Foundation, in a letter to the Pitt County Legislative Delegation.

This infrastructure will serve all facets of the present training expectations in pharmaceutical services and will anticipate the future training needs in a variety of life sciences industries. The partners in this initiative are committed to providing the education and training that will result in the necessary skilled work force, benefitting industry, students, and communities.

“Pitt Community College is proud to be a part of this collaboration and looks forward to working with our educational and county partners, as well as our business and industry colleagues, to build a solid work force foundation for the future of Pitt County and Eastern North Carolina,” said PCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas Gould.

“A skilled, talented work force will serve to attract new business and industry to the region and to encourage existing companies to grow and expand.  None of this would be possible without the generous support of the Golden LEAF Foundation,” he continues.

A number of noted site selectors indicate that a prepared workforce and ready labor pool with specific skills are the first attributes they review when beginning a site search, particularly for high-end industries.

Golden LEAF recognizes the economic and workforce development opportunity at hand and shares the vision of a bright pharmaceutical services future for the region, where over 8,000 people are already directly employed in pharmaceutical manufacturing.

“In North Carolina, life science companies and their employees pump approximately $73 billion dollars into the economy, and these companies contributed about half of the net new jobs for the state from 2000-2012,” says NC Community College Executive BioNetwork Director Dr. Maria Pharr.

“The already strong growth in this sector highlights the need for the Biopharmaceutical Work Force Development Center of Excellence, which will provide training and education in many of the core skills required by these industries.  Hosting this center in eastern North Carolina is a tremendous benefit for local companies such as Patheon and Mayne Pharma, who also benefit from having Pitt Community College and East Carolina University nearby to provide a qualified workforce pipeline,” says Dr. Pharr.

ECU Provost Dr. Ron Mitchelson has enthusiastically supported pharmaceutical manufacturing development for a lengthy period of time, and was a key member of the Patheon recruitment team. “This expansion (the October announcement) is anticipated to make Patheon’s Greenville, NC location the flagship facility within the world’s largest CDMO bringing significant jobs and investment to Eastern North Carolina,” emphasizes Dr. Mitchelson.

“ECU continues to play a leading role in the growth of North Carolina’s advanced manufacturing industries and workforce, specifically in support of the pharmaceutical cluster.  This story continues with the Golden LEAF Foundation’s investment in ECU’s Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence (PDM COE) and the successful recruitment of the Patheon expansion,” he concludes. The aim of ECU’s PDM COE is to be the premier, laboratory-based experiential education and training network in the world for preparing pharmaceutical manufacturing and pharmaceutics professionals able to fuel diversification, innovation and operational excellence within the industry.

Partnering with Johnston, Wilson, and Nash Counties, Pitt County, through the Pitt County Development Commission, aims to firmly establish North Carolina’s pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster in Eastern North Carolina.

“This very desirable advanced manufacturing and life sciences cluster is one that many states and countries are trying to develop and recruit,” says Wanda Yuhas, Executive Director of the Pitt County Development Commission.  “We are lucky to have partners like Golden LEAF to support our collaborative local efforts.  PCC and ECU provided the leadership in seeking these grants, and Golden LEAF was very clear that they wanted to help this cluster flourish. “ She notes that “different people with different expertise lead at various times, and that mutual support, communication, and honesty of purpose won the day.”