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Biotechnology Booming In Charlottesville

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Some business-minded folks in Charlottesville say there's a biotechnology boom happening in the city, one that could certainly bolster the bottom line for the economy in the area.      

Those familiar with the industry's growth say Charlottesville may not be in the ranks of California's Silicon Valley or North Carolina's Research Triangle quite yet, but 35 thriving biotech companies have started up in the city so far, and they only anticipate more to come.  The research and ideas coming from the University Of Virginia are being credited with being a huge push for biotechnology business starting up in Charlottesville.      

Armed with test tubes and lab coats, scientists at INDOOR Biotechnologies spend their days testing out allergens in their small space on Harris Street, but they're gearing up for a big move.   From bottling to biotechnology, CEO Martin Chapman will soon move his company into the old Coca Cola plant on Preston Avenue.  He hopes to use that space to not only expand his own business, but also to help other science-based companies start up in the city.      

"We've developed our plan around that, to develop it as a space for us and also an incubator new biotech companies,"  Chapman explained.      

After taking his UVA research to his company, Chapman says what made him settle on Charlottesville is far from scientific.  Rather, it's as simple as the resources and smarts the town has to offer him.       

"Charlottesville attracts talented people,"  Chapman added.      

Chapman says the success of INDOOR Biotechnologies is just one example of this industry's growth in the area.  In fact, according to his count, about 35 biotech companies are providing more than 100 jobs to people in the city.      

"Its happening and there's a lot of impetus in the industry at the moment to push things forward,"  Chapman said.      

Helping to fuel the progress, UVA Innovation Partnerships Executive Director Mark Crowell says world-class research is great to have, but even better when companies are capitalizing on it.

"There's a lot of things we can do to sort of nurture the companies and nurture the community, attract the talent, retain the talent, and help the companies through that initial growth spurt," Crowell said.      

Crowell adds jobs in the biotechnology field pay about twice as much on average than normal wage.  He stressed, though, that fully developing the industry in Charlottesville will be a long process,  "it's not overnight success,"  Crowell said.      

Back at INDOOR Biotechnologies, Chapman says for every person he hires or who has a job at another biotech company in town, another six or seven employment opportunities are created. That's thanks to all of the outside needs the business has, like marketing, distribution, and legal services.      

Chapman hopes more people will realize what resources Charlottesville has to offer, and that by shipping out and moving up, his current lab space will become a home for even more biotech business. 

"Its an area where biotech companies can come to grow and develop and flourish,"  Chapman said.      

If you are interested in this topic, you can take part in a panel discussion on the industry's development.  Talks of being a biotech hub will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Gleason Building in downtown Charlottesville.  Click here for more information.