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NC Biotech Center cuts programs, jobs

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The Biotechnology Center announced it is cutting staff and programs as a result of a significant budget cut from the state. The Biotechnology Center announced it is cutting staff and programs as a result of a significant budget cut from the state.

The Biotechnology Center, with its state appropriation slashed to $12.6 million from $17.2 million, announced Tuesday it is cutting staff and programs as a result of a significant budget cut from the state.

As of Sept. 1, the center located in the Research Triangle Park is:

  • Ending the Education and Training Program, which includes three grant programs.
  • Cutting research grants programs by closing the Multidisciplinary Research Grants and trimming the Institutional Development Grants and Collaborative Funding Grants.
  • Trimming community and economic development programs by ending the Regional Development Grants and reducing the Biotechnology Meeting Grants, Presidential Initiative Awards and Economic Development Awards. 
  • Ending the Industrial Fellowship Program and reducing the Small Business Research Loans.

The center said it will honor all awards already made in these programs.

The center is also cutting staff through a mixture of layoffs and unfilled positions. Seven positions were terminated on Tuesday.

More staff losses are expected through a voluntary separation program.

"It is difficult to shutter programs that are significant to our life science community," said Norris Tolson, president and CEO. "Each of these programs had outstanding success metrics, leveraging additional investment and jobs.

"However, with limited resources, and with the legislature's direction in the budget resolution, changes must be made."

Scores of teachers came to the Biotechnology Center to be trained on how to create courses in biotechnology for students -- one of the program that was among those cut. 

"We trained 200 teachers every summer," Tolson said. "If we don't do it, then someone else will have to do it or it won't get done."

The center also provided loans to startup companies in the biotech field -- loans that companies couldn't get anywhere else because investors are often skittish of new technology. 

Tolson said the impact of the cuts will affect job creation in this state.

"With less money, we won't be able to invest in as many startup companies and those companies will find that money somewhere else," Tolson explained. "They'll either go to another state or go out of business. They won't be able  to grow."

Tolson added, "In the last two years, the center has helped created between 25 and 30 new startup companies and is responsible for creating 58,000 jobs in the last 30 years."

In addition to the seven layoffs Tuesday, there will be more cuts in September when up to 18 people may take voluntary separation.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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