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Monday, February 28, 2005

UNCP to build biotech lab at COMtech

A $1.6 million investment in a biotechnology research center was approved February 25 by the Board of Trustees of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

The project, to be located at nearby COMtech, will house a 4,800 square-foot bio-processing laboratory. The funding will come from the North Carolina Higher Education bonds, and the state legislature must give final approval for the change in plans.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of the research facility.

“This has the support of the faculty, especially the science faculty,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said.

Trustee Breeden Blackwell was enthusiastic.

“I’m glad we are submitting this project at the faculty’s request,” Blackwell said. “We’re in the student business.”

UNCP already owns land at COMtech for the lab. UNCP’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development is located at COMtech, a 600-acre economic development park located between Pembroke and Lumberton.

Chemistry Professor Dr. Len Holmes, who directs UNCP’s biotechnology initiative, said the lab would be home to experiments in microbiology and analytical and molecular biochemistry.

“This is excellent news!” Dr. Holmes said. “We are all very appreciative of the Chancellor's and trustee’s vision for UNC Pembroke.”

“This laboratory will help train our students for grad school or direct entry into the biotech industry,” Dr. Holmes said. “It’s a theory into practice environment with a fleet of possibilities for the future.”

“There will be a research component that will allow students and faculty to conduct research in collaboration with other universities, community colleges and industry,” Dr. Holmes said. “In the not too distant future, we hope to do contract commercial research.”

The higher education bonds were approved in 2000 by North Carolina voters, and UNCP’s share was $57 million. A new classroom building is the next major project on the drawing board.

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