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UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University sign partnerships with campus

Staff report

KANNAPOLIS — The North Carolina Research Campus signed a deal this week with the University of North Carolina system outlining their public-private partnership.

The agreement describes, among other items, the roles of UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University at the 350-acre campus, most of which will be built on the former Pillowtex Plant No. 1 site.

Each of the schools will have a research building on the campus and use of the Core Laboratory, which is now under construction on the grounds.

UNC-Chapel Hill will focus on nutrition and wellness. N.C. State University will study fruits and vegetables.

Duke University, the N.C. Community College System, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and and other state universities also will have a presence on the biotech research campus.

According to this week’s agreement, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State will lease their facilities from Castle & amp; Cooke for 20 years. Castle & amp; Cooke is the development firm of project backer David Murdock, also the owner of Dole Food Co.

After the 20 years, Castle & amp; Cooke will donate the buildings to the state.

The state university system will be seeking $26 million from the General Assembly for operations in Kannapolis in 2007.

A press release from Castle & amp; Cooke said the relationship between the UNC system and the developer will help make the campus one of the world’s most comprehensive biotech resources, combining the research power of leading universities with the know-how of business.

Murdock has envisioned a campus with cutting-edge research, advanced equipment and strong private enterprise. The campus aims at spawning a million square feet of office and laboratory space, 350,000 square feet of new retail and commercial space and approximately 700 new residential units.

Here are some of the campus developments in 2006:

* Much of the campus’ advanced equipment will reside in the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, which had a groundbreaking ceremony in February and a “topping off” celebration in August. The 311,000-square-foot building will house a state-of-the-art contract manufacturing biogenic facility and tenants.

* In August, Murdock announced plans to purchase a 950 MHz actively shielded NMR — the world’s most powerful superconducting magnet.

The two-story, 8-ton machine will enhance areas of research such as drug development and nutrition. The purchase of this equipment on behalf of the campus’ nonprofit institute underscores the project’s commitment to world-leading science, according to Castle & amp; Cooke.

* Clyde Higgs, vice president of business development for Castle & amp; Cooke, has traveled worldwide trying to spread the word and recruit businesses to the biotech campus. He is strongly promoting a $200 million venture capital fund being set up by Murdock.

* Higgs has signed two tenants — the Biomarker Group and Pelican Life Sciences.

* In September, David Sampson, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, visited the campus and said, “I don’t know of any other place in the country that has this kind of strategy this kind of commitment of resources.”

* Earlier in the year, then U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow toured the campus and said, “We’ll continue to lead the global economy because of what you are doing here.”

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