Vol. 18, No. 33May 27, 1999

New facility to house Delaware Biotechnology Institute

Gov. Thomas R. Carper and Jill R. Felix

As a graduate of the University of Delaware, I'm just enormously proud of the way the University is nurturing biotechnology," Gov. Thomas R. Carper said May 24 at the Delaware Technology Park.

The state's higher education institutions-including UD, Delaware State University and Delaware Technical and Community College-will be "the engines that will drive economic development" in the future, he said.

Carper was celebrating the groundbreaking for three new research and business facilities at the technology park, located at 1 Innovation Way in Newark, between Library and Marrows roads.

One of the buildings will serve as headquarters for the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, a joint venture of the state, academic institutions and industrial partners, directed by David S. Weir, a former DuPont Co. executive.

Delaware's economy is strong, and biotechnology promises to make it even stronger, Carper said. In the next century, "We can still raise corn, and we can still raise chickens," he said, "but, we also will do incredible things with technology," such as developing new environmental solutions to the excess phosphorous produced by chickens.

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute will benefit from Carper's successful economic-development efforts, which most recently influenced AstraZeneca's decision to establish its headquarters in Fairfax, creating 2,000 new jobs, UD President David P. Roselle said. The biotechnology institute also will create high-quality jobs, by supporting scientific discovery and developing new educational programs in the life sciences.

"Jobs created here will be the life blood of our economy," Roselle said of the technology park's expansion, which will support start-up and emerging businesses, as well as the biotechnology institute. Opened in the early 1990s as a "hothouse" for new ideas, the Technology Park effectively incubates businesses: Tenants who "graduate" from the facility typically report a five-fold growth of their workforce, Roselle said.

The technology park's expansion, to be completed in collaboration with the University City Science Center of Philadelphia, will provide 117,000 square feet of space. The largest of the three buildings, encompassing 52,000 square feet, has been earmarked for the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, J. Michael Bowman, chairman and president of the technology park, said.

According to the Delaware Economic Development Office, the technology park has created more than 500 jobs, generating $200 million in revenue since 1993. After the current expansion, the number of jobs created should increase to 2,000, with $1 billion in revenue generation by 2010.

Jill R. Felix, president of the University City Science Center, urged those attending to "think globally and act regionally." To compete with Silicon Valley and other high-technology strongholds, she said, neighboring states must pool their intellectual resources. The Science Center, owned by 31 colleges and universities in the Delaware Valley region, including UD and Delaware State University, promotes development through regional technology clusters.

New educational programs offered through the Delaware Biotechnology Institute will range from a two-year associate's degree for skilled technicians to undergraduate and doctoral degrees in biotechnology and related fields.

A graduate program also is being developed to pair the traditional, MBA curriculum with a bachelor of science degree in life sciences business management.

"This special program will produce the next generation of leaders for the life sciences industry," Roselle said.

In addition, the institute will support a wide range of research. The core discipline will be the biological sciences-supported by selected concentrations- including structural and functional genomics, protein structure and function and bioinformatics, Weir reported. A second area of emphasis "will be built around the interface among biology, engineering and information systems."

Funding for the biotechnology institute to support start-up is expected to be in excess of about $25 million from the state, led by the Delaware Economic Development Office, universities and local life sciences leaders.

"Scientific innovation and economic development clearly are parallel events," Roselle said. "Delaware is well-advised to assist new industries, by supporting the technology park and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute."

-Ginger Pinholster
Photo by Robert Cohen