Charlotte's Life Sciences
More than 87,000 employees and more than 3,500 companies weave the healthcare fabric of the charlotte area. The talented medical community is integrated into the life and economy of the city through research and delivery of services to civic and multi-national outreach that builds thoughtful and far-sighted healthcare intellectual capital.
Maintaining a vibrant medical industry requires an exceptional civic environment. One medical expert frames the challenge this way — medical organizations know how to compete, but can they “pre-compete?” He says that success “may depend on how well they
partner — with other companies, with government and academia
and with medical research foundations — to support research in
The collaboration of for-profit companies, nonprofits, practitioners and academia in Charlotte offers a wealth of knowledge and camaraderie, laying a base for healthcare innovation.
Hospitals lay the foundation for
Charlotte’s quality medical care
Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) provides a full spectrum of healthcare and wellness programs throughout North and South Carolina. Its diverse network of facilities includes academic medical centers, hospitals, healthcare pavilions, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, nursing homes and hospice and palliative care. CHS works to improve and enhance the overall health and well-being of its communities through high quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives.
CHS has grown into one of the leading healthcare systems in the Southeast and one of the largest public multi-hospital systems in the country. The budgeted net operating revenue for the CHS total enterprise now approaches $7 billion annually. If it were a public corporation, it would rank among the nation’s 400 largest. In addition, CHS encompasses more than 650 care locations and over 6,000 licensed beds in two states, including more than 30 hospitals.
For over the past 25 years, Carolina HealthCare System’s Corporate Health and Wellness has been providing one of the most comprehensive and respected corporate health programs in a 13 county region. The program offers an extensive range of services to employers to assist them in reducing absenteeism, improving employee retention, increasing productivity, and reduce healthcare costs. Services include on-site clinics, customized worksite wellness service, on-site health fairs and occupational health services.
Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in Charlotte, the largest CHS facility, has been designated as an “Academic Medical Center Teaching Hospital” by the state of North Carolina. Currently, CMC is one of only five hospitals in North Carolina with that designation, the other four being associated with major universities (Duke, Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina). The education program has grown over the years and now encompasses more than 300 residents and fellows pursuing advanced training in a wide variety of medical specialties.
Another educational milestone was achieved in October 2010 when CMC was formally designated as the Charlotte Campus of the UNC School of Medicine. CMC is hosting an initial cadre of third- and fourth-year UNC medical students, with plans to increase enrollment substantially in future years as the state implements a master plan to address a growing physician shortage.
CHS has added two specialty treatment services in the past several years. Levine Children’s Hospital opened to patients in December 2007. The hospital was built with the aid of more than $65 million in community philanthropy and is one of the most comprehensive facilities of its kind in the country, offering care in more than 30 specialties including kidney, liver and heart transplants; blood and marrow transplants; cardiac and cancer care; neurosurgery; rehabilitation services; and the highest designated level of neonatal intensive care.
In October 2010, CHS announced the formation of Levine Cancer Institute, made possible by a $20 million leadership gift from the Leon Levine Foundation. The Institute works with hospitals and providers throughout CHS to enhance the quality and convenience of cancer care by developing and sharing best practices system wide.
These kinds of developments attract new practitioners and researchers to Charlotte from all over the nation. For instance:
Derek Raghavan, M.D., Ph.D., a world renowned expert on cancer, is President of Levine Cancer Institute. Previously, Dr. Raghavan had been chairman and director of the Taussig Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Raghavan is highly sought after as a consultant on cancer. He serves on the editorial boards of numerous medical journals; has been a principal investigator for more than a dozen major research grants; and has published hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed professional journals. (See the accompanying interview with Dr. Raghavan on page 20.)
Charles R. Bridges, M.D., Sc.D., a renowned heart surgeon and scientist, is the chair of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at CMC. Dr. Bridges joined the CHS Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute team from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he was professor of surgery and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Bridges’ extensive background in cardiovascular medicine includes minimally invasive heart surgeries and valve procedures. His capabilities allow patients to receive “transfusion-free” or “bloodless” cardiac surgery that historically has been performed on patients with religious beliefs that do not allow blood transfusions.
Dr. Bridges is also the recipient of a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate novel molecular and regenerative therapies as a means to improve heart function in patients with advanced heart failure. Dr. Bridges invented the concept of “molecular cardiac surgery.” This field of regenerative medicine, according to the NIH, has the potential to address the shortage of organs available for donation.
Novant Health (formerly Presbyterian Healthcare), a not-for-profit healthcare leader, with hospitals in North and South Carolina and Virginia. Presbyterian operates more than 120 physician primary care and specialty practices and five hospitals in the greater Charlotte region, including two specialty hospitals: Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital, which has been serving pediatric patients for over 15 years, and Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital.
Novant Medical Group practices are committed to delivering the patient-centered medical home model of care. Doctors, nurses and other providers work as a medical team to ensure patients receive coordinated, comprehensive and quality medical treatment and preventive services.
In 2011, Presbyterian Hospital was named among the 50 Best Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review, a publication covering hospital and health system news. The publication also named Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital — the region’s only orthopaedic hospital — one of the 60 Hospitals with Great Orthopedic Programs. In 2010, it earned five disease-specific certifications from The Joint Commission, including hip fracture, hip replacement, knee replacement, laminectomy and spinal fusion.
Recently, Presbyterian Hospital added 90 inpatient beds, bringing its total bed count to 607. In fall 2011, Presbyterian opened an expanded pediatric emergency department with a dedicated entrance and child-friendly waiting room for children and their parents. Presbyterian Healthcare also is making plans to build a new Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital and to add beds at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville and Presbyterian Hospital Matthews, cities both adjacent to Charlotte.
Presbyterian Cardiovascular Institute at Presbyterian Hospital recently announced an affiliation with the Cleveland Clinic to locally deliver world-class cardiovascular services. The affiliation includes prevention, medical cardiology and cardiovascular surgery.
With the Cleveland Clinic collaboration, Presbyterian’s clinical team will have access to opportunities to provide new treatments and therapies to patients, in addition to accelerated access to Cleveland Clinic’s cardiac care. That team will work together to design custom treatment plans for patients, allowing them to stay in their community for care. “This affiliation will allow Presbyterian Hospital and Cleveland Clinic to accelerate advancements in cardiac care in the Carolinas and beyond,” says Bruce Lytle, M.D., chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “Treating patients with cardiovascular disease is complex, but new techniques and technologies are always emerging. Our affiliation will help us deliver these new innovations to patients more quickly.”
In 2011, Cleveland Clinic’s Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute was rated No. 1 in the nation for heart care by U.S. News & World Report for the 17th consecutive year. Presbyterian Cardiovascular Institute ranks in the top 10 percent in the nation for cardiac care with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quality comparisons. Presbyterian Hospital also earned a prestigious three-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, which represents the highest quality of cardiac surgical care. This distinction was achieved by less than 12 percent of cardiac surgery hospitals in the United States. Additionally, the Presbyterian Cardiovascular Institute is a lead enroller in the world for numerous cardiology studies and clinical trials.
Presbyterian has committed to another key health issue. Workforce “wellness” is a top long-term strategy for controlling health spending, according to a 2011 National Survey of Employer Sponsored Health Plans. It notes, “When asked about a long-term response to the changes initiated by health reform, an astonishing 87 percent of large employers say they will add or strengthen programs or policies to encourage more health-conscious behavior.”
Presbyterian offers wellness and onsite programs for employers. “Employee health is a strategic business issue. Wellness programs can reduce corporate health care costs by 20 to 55 percent and worker’s compensation and disability costs by as much as 30 percent. Also, companies providing wellness programs are perceived by employees as offering important additional benefits, which enhances workforce retention,” says Nicole Martin, director of Corporate Health & Network Development at Novant Health.
Presbyterian’s Corporate Health program goes beyond employee health screenings so an employer can design an individualized culture of health for the workplace. Customized programs can include:
On-site employee screenings and health risk assessments
On-site wellness center
Lifestyle modification programs, including tobacco cessation, stress management and weight loss
Occupational medicine services, including pre-employment physicals and drug and alcohol testing
Worker’s Compensation examinations
Connections to an extensive network of primary care physicians and expedited appointments
Executive physicals and individualized executive health programs
For executives, Presbyterian’s Travel Medicine Program adds a level of personal health security abroad. Its infectious disease specialists keep in-touch with health conditions and disease concerns around the world. They know the changing requirements for foreign countries for preventive health measures and the availability of medications and treatments for disease or injury.
The Charlotte hospital community is keenly aware that workplace wellness drives a community culture of good health. Recently, a Drug Store News interview noted that nationwide, “A renewed focus on awareness and prevention will be a priority … as chronic diseases account for many of our healthcare issues and costs. Businesses and organizations from employers to insurers to retailers will institute health-and-wellness programs to encourage better health and prevention.”
An array of diverse medical and bioscience organizations surrounds a talented medical delivery core. For instance:
Charlotte’s OrthoCarolina, one of the nation’s leading orthopedic practices, has physicians with expertise in the areas of foot and ankle, hand, hip and knee, shoulder and elbow, spine, sports medicine and pediatrics. Services provided include physical therapy, MRI and post-surgical support. The practice has grown to include more than 125 physicians at 25 offices located throughout the Carolinas. OrthoCarolina physicians have received significant recognition. In the summer of 2011, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Review named “10 Great Physicians in North Carolina.” OrthoCarolina had three of the ten:
Dr. Thomas K. Fehring is the co-director of the Hip and Knee Center and director of the adult reconstructive fellowship at OrthoCarolina. He currently serves as vice president of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. Dr. Fehring has served as a founding member of the International Congress of Joint Reconstruction.
Dr. William L. Griffin is the director of the OrthoCarolina Hip & Knee Center and the chairman of the OrthoCarolina Research Institute. Dr. Griffin’s research has been published in professional journals, with findings on the deformation of one piece acetabular components, metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty and cup deformation. Dr. Griffin is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons and the Association for Arthritis Hip and Knee Surgery.
Dr. Daniel B. Murrey is a spine surgeon and CEO of OrthoCarolina since 2008. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Cervical Spine Research Society and Scoliosis Research Society. He has a professional interest in treatment of both surgical and nonsurgical spinal disorders, cervical spine surgery, spinal deformities and disc replacement. Dr. Murrey is involved in teaching and training other surgeons as well as in developing new spine technologies.
In the fall of 2011, Becker’s Orthopedic, Spine & Pain Management Review named three OrthoCarolina doctors in its national “70 Female Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon Leaders to Know:”
Dr. Lois K. Osier is a hand and microsurgery specialist. She is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and has a professional interest in pediatric and congenital hand deformities.
Dr. Patricia L. McHale is a sports medicine specialist. During her career, she has been a member of several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.
Dr. Erika Gantt is a hand and upper extremity specialist and a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Gantt is focused on research and has published on topics such as arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
The OrthoCarolina Research Institute (OCRI) advances orthopedic healthcare and fosters scientific collaborations between OCRI, universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare device manufacturers and other academic and research organizations.
OCRI currently manages 21 FDA-regulated clinical trials, research grants and over 50 clinical outcomes studies and annually monitors approximately 6,000 study patients. The results of these research studies are shared with other healthcare professionals through peer-reviewed medical journals, medical textbooks and presentations at medical conferences. OCRI is organized exclusively for charitable, educational and scientific purposes.
Each year, research efforts from OCRI result in approximately 20 scientific articles being published in peer-reviewed medical journals and more than 100 presentations at national and international medical conferences and seminars. This outreach deepens the exposure of the Charlotte healthcare community nationwide.
Microban was founded in 1994 by three biomedical engineers who pioneered the integration of a durable antimicrobial technology for polymers. The company leverages a broad portfolio of antimicrobial technologies for consumer, industrial, building, textile and medical applications. Microban technologies provide an added level of cleanliness for more than 1,000 products around the world by protecting them from damaging effects of bacteria, mold and mildew.
Today, the company is leveraging its expertise with a broad range of antimicrobial technologies and materials to help address the growing problem of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) related to medical devices. HAIs are a serious health threat associated with over 100,000 deaths each year. These secondary infections following surgery are a major contributor to increased healthcare costs; experts estimate they add in excess of $20 billion to healthcare costs.
“Our experience with a broad range of antimicrobial technologies and materials puts us in a unique position to be able to help medical device manufacturers get to market more quickly with more effective technologies,” says Dr. Ivan Ong, vice president of research and development for Microban International.
The company has recently made significant advances in the development of antimicrobial solutions for acetal (polyoxymethylene, an engineering thermoplastic), a material commonly used in catheter tubing and connector components, which can be a source of HAIs. Acetals are prone to processing issues with many additives, causing chemical degradation and formaldehyde off-gassing in the final product. A new antimicrobial solution has been developed that is compatible with acetal and does not cause destabilization or formaldehyde generation. “This new work is a significant step forward and will help medical device manufacturers to offer an antimicrobial solution that is more robust and provides more consistent antimicrobial performance,” says Dr. Ong.
Chelsea Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical development company that acquires and develops innovative products for the treatment of a variety of human diseases. Chelsea is pursuing an orphan drug strategy for the development of an orally active synthetic precursor of norepinephrine for the treatment of neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. The company is also developing a library of metabolically inert antifolate compounds engineered to have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activity to treat a range of immunological disorders.
Founded in 2004 around its antifolate technology, Chelsea has since raised over $35 million in additional capital, transitioned into a public company and further expanded its product development portfolio with early and late stage product candidates.
CEM was founded in 1978 by a Chemist, an Electrical engineer, and a Mechanical engineer: “CEM.” It is the largest provider of microwave laboratory systems worldwide, touching varied industries and scientific disciplines, pioneering the field of microwave chemistry. For more than 30 years, CEM has designed and developed laboratory instruments and scientific methods – both microwave-based and non-microwave technologies – that are used by major companies, research institutes and universities around the world.
CEM and its distributors have more than 35,000 systems in more than 50 countries. It has the largest portfolio of microwave technology patents worldwide with more than 300, and 20 major products have been introduced in the last five years. The company is based in Matthews, neighboring Charlotte.
International HIFU, a subsidiary of USHIFU, LLC, is committed to treating prostate cancer using HIFU with the Sonablate® 500, a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure pioneered to control cancer and significantly improve patients’ quality of life. The company is focused on treating diseases with high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) technologies. HIFU is a therapy option for localized prostate cancer that may offer a balance between eliminating cancer and maintaining quality of life. It is an out-patient, radiation-free procedure from which one can truly walk away. Over 10,000 men worldwide have already chosen Sonablate HIFU to treat their prostate disease.
Specialized products and services
Groninger, an international leader in pharmaceutical and cosmetics packaging, moved its North American headquarters to Charlotte from Basking Ridge, N.J., in 2008. The Charlotte operation is a subsidiary of Groninger & Co. of Crailsheim, Germany. The company recently invested $4 million to move into a 28,000 square feet space, up from its 5,000 original square feet. “Now with this in place, I think we are much more attractive for new potential customers,” says U.S. managing director Lothar Burger. “It’s more permanent.” He says the U.S. operations should grow to 25 percent of Groninger’s total sales, up from roughly 13 percent.
Burger cites his reasons for Charlotte as a location-of-choice in his pharmaceutical manufacturing business:
Most of the U.S. is easily in our reach by plane or truck. The Atlantic seaboard is easy to access from Charlotte, and we have many customers in New Jersey and New York.
Groninger USA headquarters are close to the Charlotte-Douglas Airport, with its direct flights to Germany and our headquarters.
The area’s existing automotive and textile skills support fabricators and designers who can make new or replacement parts to our exacting standards, and do it quickly.
A great labor force. Very good support on the tech side.
Greiner Bio-One, located in Monroe just south of Charlotte, is a medical and research plastics manufacturing company with products used in research labs, academic labs and hospitals all over the country to diagnose, treat and cure disease.
The BioScience business operation of Greiner Bio-One offers products for the cultivation and analysis of cell and tissue cultures and microplates for high-throughput screening, allowing industry and research the most rapid and efficient drug screening. Also offered is a complete line of dependable, ready-to-use general labware tools used in laboratories everywhere and innovative biochip technologies for genotyping to detect gene defects and identify infectious agents.
In addition to supplying commercial products, Greiner Bio-One offers customized plastic platforms for the life sciences sector, from analyzing customer needs for product to the finished product –including services such as design studies, prototyping and fully automated manufacturing. As an original equipment manufacturer, the company is a longstanding partner with pharmaceutical, diagnostic and medical technology industries.
In 2011, Greiner Bio-One opened a newly expanded warehouse facility, adding 75,000 square feet of space and a 30 foot vertical height for inventory. In addition to the newly added square footage, ten acres of land has been designated to accommodate a five year expansion plan for the future.
Salvin Dental is a global leader in surgical instrumentation for Implant Dentistry. According to Bob Salvin, “Oral health is being increasingly recognized as one way to achieve better health. This is an exciting bioscience niche.” Salvins’ customers are more than 26,000 surgical specialists, specifically oral surgeons, periodontists, prosthodontists and general dentists who have had advanced training to surgically place implants in their practice. Salvin customers are in more than 100 countries.
For almost three decades, Salvin has been the innovator behind devices now considered routine in this surgical niche: bone grafting materials for implant site preparation, instruments and materials for sinus surgery and overall specialized instrumentation to make surgeries easier and more predictable for both the surgeon and the patient.
Salvin Dental is a force to get new products to market. Bob Salvin doesn’t work alone. He creates the ultimate network for innovation with his customers. They describe their surgical needs to Salvin, who then works his engineering, medical and machining system to match the best minds for the problem. On average, Salvin introduces more than 50 new products each year.
Salvin has more than 1,100 specialized instruments and oral surgery bone and tissue grafting products. Most recently, the company has successfully introduced a full range of osteobiologic collagen membrane products, which are geared to enhance the success of dental implant procedures in difficult or compromised patients.
The testament to Bob Salvin’s success in the market is, “Ten years of 27 percent to 30 percent annual growth, while hearing from our customers that they have seen us grow without losing the personal touch or compromising the quality of our service.”
Swisher Hygiene, Inc.
Swisher Hygiene, Inc. provides hygiene and sanitation solutions to customers throughout much of North America and internationally through a global network of company-owned operations, franchises and master licensees. Swisher provides a complete range of products and services to clinics and acute care centers, surgery centers, vet clinics, alternative care clinics, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. These include:
General cleaning and housekeeping chemicals
Specialty soaps, hand sanitizers and germicides
All-surface germicidal misting
Advanced odor control
Laundry and linen solutions
Foodservice chemicals and dish machines
Mats, mops and related dust control solutions
Expert manual restroom cleaning service
Full-facility power washing
Pelton & Crane
Pelton & Crane has a century-old track record of innovation and quality in the dental industry. Founded by Dr. R.M. Pelton, a dentist who felt the need in his own practice for a furnace used to bake porcelain inlays, the company expanded its offering of dental equipment early on to include cabinet-based delivery systems and sterilizers. The company grew to produce lights, chairs and cabinetry, and today Pelton & Crane offers a complete line of dental equipment. Dental professionals can use a Pelton and Crane iPad application for a virtual tour of the company’s lighting products.
Southeastern Ocularists, Inc.
Southeastern Ocularists, Inc. is a family-owned and operated practice that delivers high-quality, custom-fit ocular prosthetics. “We use the modified impression method along with hand-painted craftsmanship and modern technology to deliver an artificial eye superior in natural appearance and performance, says Robert Henderlite, Board Certified Ocularist and company founder. A “modified impression method” involves taking an impression of the socket, then making an acrylic plastic casting of the impression and final modifications to the anterior aspect of the plastic model.
Southeastern Ocularists began in 1993 in Charlotte to provide their services to the area’s growing population and thriving medical community. There were a high number of patients undergoing enucleation and evisceration surgery without a permanent local ocularist to serve their needs. Losing an eye is a traumatic experience only to be compounded by an extended wait or long distance travel to have a prosthesis made. Southeastern Ocularists Inc. helps to alleviate that stress by providing convenient and timely service.
Commenting on Charlotte’s business environment, Robert Piercy, an ocularist under Mr. Henderlite, says, “Our impression is one of optimism. The area’s population continues to grow and the healthcare field seems to be adapting seamlessly. With the increased use of technology in the field, patients can be handled much more efficiently than in the past. We are a local company but our patients come from all around the world.”
Piercy says a strength for the company has been the local workforce. “We have a modest sized base of employees. All are from the Charlotte area and received their educational degrees in North Carolina. The strong academic high schools and colleges in the region provide us with high quality employees.”
Barnhardt Manufacturing bleaches cotton fiber to customer specifications using safe and approved chlorine-free formulae and process controls. Production lots are traceable, consistent and designed for various product applications for use in medical, pharmaceutical, health, personal and home care applications.
The company’s Carolina Absorbent Cotton group has supplied coil for pharmaceutical and vitamin packaging since the mid-1940s. Committed to excellence of product and service, Carolina Absorbent Cotton maintains an FDA-approved facility, and its coils meet or exceed U.S. and European Pharmacopeia standards. In addition, its fibers meet the FDA Code of Federal Regulations for food contact.
Another Barnhardt subsidiary, Richmond Dental, has a history that dates to the late 1800s providing innovative disposable products to the dental and medical markets with products such as earloop face masks, cotton rolls, applicators, sponges and dispensers.
Fritz Equipment Service Inc.
Family owned and operated for more than 35 years, Fritz Equipment Service Inc. focuses on all types of laboratory equipment. Fritz Equipment Service maintains more than 15,000 square feet of quality new and used environmental and general laboratory equipment. The company has the capacity to outfit new laboratories with everything from laboratory benches to support equipment.
Lash Group is a Charlotte healthcare consulting organization that began in 1993 with just seven people. The company is a major success story. Lash Group is now part of Valley Forge-based AmerisourceBergen, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical services companies serving the United States, Canada and selected global markets with a focus on the pharmaceutical supply chain. In the U.S., the company handles approximately 20 percent of all pharmaceuticals sold and distributed.
Peyton Howell, who moved to Charlotte almost 20 years ago and started Lash Group, is now president of AmerisourceBergen Consulting Services, a business unit of AmerisourceBergen.
Two recent acquisitions are driving the Consulting Services group’s growth, creating the world’s largest patient services organization that will include support for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies. Howell responded to reporters about the ramp-up: “With health care reform, as well as a new wide range of ... therapies, there’s a need to help physicians navigate the health care landscape.”
It is “an incredible growth story” for a Charlotte business, she says.
In addition to supporting health policy issues for AmerisourceBergen, Ms. Howell is a national speaker and author on health policy-related subjects including Medicare, healthcare reform and patient access to care.
AmerisourceBergen has over $80 billion in annual revenue and employs 11,500 people across the U.S. and Canada; 1,500 of those employees are in Charlotte. In November 2011, officials from the Consulting Services group announced the company will add 450 jobs in 2012, mostly in Charlotte. That is a significant vote of confidence for Charlotte.
Cirrus Medical Staffing
Cirrus Medical Staffing is an award-winning firm, providing medical professionals to healthcare facilities across the nation. With headquarters in Charlotte, Cirrus specializes in placing nurses and allied health professionals into travel, contract and permanent employment. Cirrus is ranked as one of the top 10 travel nurse companies in the U.S. and has been recognized by Entrepreneur magazine for its growth.
Biotechnology continues to grow
Biotechnology in Charlotte continues on a strong course. In a recent meeting of the regional network of biotech organizations, more than 50 expansions or new companies were cited. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center notes three growth sectors for Charlotte:
The North Carolina Research Campus
♠ Businesses and research that are born here
Expansion of life science companies from Europe and other life
The drivers for local biotech growth — talent, innovation and corporate presence — are cited by Marjorie Benbow, Director of the Greater Charlotte Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
A solid workforce is essential. “The Charlotte labor pool has been vetted by an independent third-party site consultant as ready to absorb a large bio/pharma project. Universities and tech colleges have played a major part in bioscience workforce development,” says Benbow. A canvass of recent graduates logged 332 bachelor’s degrees, 10 master’s degrees and 9 doctorates in biology alone. In the healthcare field, 751 associates, 464 bachelor’s and 316 graduate degrees were reported.
Additionally, Central Piedmont Community College has a Health Sciences Division that prepares graduates for service in settings such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dentists’ offices, skilled nursing facilities, public schools and outpatient rehabilitation centers. The programs cover disciplines such as cytotechnology, dental assisting, dental hygiene, health information technology, medical assisting, medical laboratory technology, physical therapist assistant, respiratory therapy and dental clinic.
A bionetwork training center based at Gaston College supports biotechnology workforce development statewide. A new pharmacy degree (PharmD) program at Wingate University has already logged 63 graduates in the most recent spring semester.
Hundreds of M.D.s from UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, East Carolina University, Wake Forest Bowman Gray School of Medicine and even Virginia are residents-in-training at Charlotte healthcare institutions.
Innovation in the biosciences springs from varied regional organizations. For instance, scientists at the NC Research Campus report 199 professional publications to their credit and 57 grants awarded. UNC Charlotte and the Charlotte Research Institute continue to lead the nation in innovation (patents applied for and issued), start-ups and number of licenses indexed by dollars of research. Approximately 1,300 bioscience or healthcare related patents have been issued to Charlotte residents; and in the past two years, 13 life science patents issued have had commercial assignees. Helping the process of lab-to-market is a new local chapter of the Licensing Executives Society, which brings together a cross-section from the life sciences sector each quarter.
Says Benbow, “The Charlotte region is a sticky economy. Young people like to come here and older ones like to stay. A pharma CEO in the Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in Greater Charlotte says that this city is by far the easiest place to recruit talent.”
Educators add to a strategic workforce
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is among the fastest growing universities in the UNC System. The university has robust curricula in a range of medical and bioscience studies that serve business and research.
The Biology Department offers varied focus areas of study, including cell biology/physiology, medical technology, microbiology and environmental biology. “Our Ph.D. in Biology Program’s intellectual focus is an interdisciplinary synthesis of the biological sciences and related biotechnology, drawing on strengths of faculty in multiple departments and serving students who want to do research in academia, industry and clinical settings,” says Martin Klotz, chair, department of biology.
The UNC Charlotte Cooperative Education Program allows biology students to either alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time work experience or to combine part-time academic study and part-time work in the same semester. This program strengthens workforce ties between industry and the university.
A 2012 ‘overarching trend,’ according to one medical journal is that “New care models and health IT will demand attention.” The university provides a bedrock of bioscience knowledge and also explores new technologies.
The interface of medical delivery and information technology is one focus of the College of Computing and Informatics at UNC Charlotte. With 60 faculty and 140 doctoral students, it is the largest informatics program in North Carolina. The college’s three departments — bioinformatics and genomics, computer science and software and information systems – house leading research centers and institutes, including the Bioinformatics Research Center, the Charlotte Visualization Center, the Diversity in Information Technology Institute and the Software Solutions Lab.
UNC Charlotte created the state’s first-ever professional science master’s degree in health informatics, developed in collaboration between the College of Computing and Informatics and the College of Health and Human Services. “Electronic medical records are coming,” says Larry Mays, chair of the department of bioinformatics and genomics. “Estimates by the American Medical Informatics Association indicate it will take at least 200,000 newly trained health informatics support specialists, 6,000 in North Carolina alone, to make this happen.” A real-world capstone project places students in the labs and in the workplace directly with industry leaders. UNC Charlotte is preparing students for a critically sought-after skill set by the healthcare community.
UNC Charlotte’s new collaboration with the Wake Forest School of Medicine creates a research powerhouse. Initial projects include research in real-time ICU monitoring with visualization and delivery of patient status to mobile devices, as well as robotics and primate gut microbial analysis.
“Over the last five years, UNC Charlotte has invested over $100 million in life science research, faculty research talent, lab space and new buildings. With strengths in cancer research, liver research, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics and health services, UNC Charlotte plays a strong role as the basic science research partner and raises the level of healthcare in the Charlotte community,” says Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development and executive director of the Charlotte Research Institute.
An already strong area with expansion plans is cancer biology. “We are engaged in research projects including mechanisms of the spread of breast and skin cancer, mechanisms of uncontrolled (cancerous) liver cell growth, the molecular genetics of cancer initiation and DNA damage and cancer induction,” says Wilhelm.
The UNC Charlotte College of Health and Human Services is the fastest growing college at the university and has four academic units: the department of kinesiology, the department of public health sciences, the department of social work and the school of nursing. Here is a sampling of the college’s various degrees:
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, Public Health and Nursing
Masters in Health Administration, Nurse Anesthesia / Across the Life Span, Nursing / Community/Public Health Nursing and Clinical Exercise Physiology
Interdisciplinary Biology Doctoral Program and Doctor of Philosophy in Health Services Research
Other nursing programs feed nursing professionals into Charlotte’s medical community.
The Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens is comprised of 32 full-time faculty and approximately 550 students in its Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs and offers pre-licensure programs leading to the associate degree or the bachelor’s degree in nursing. Other options include the accelerated BSN option and post-licensure programs, which consist of the master’s degree in nursing, the RN-to-BSN option and the RN-to-MSN option. The full-time teaching faculty has 32 nurses who work in partnership with Presbyterian Hospital, Carolinas Medical Center and other regional institutions.
Carolinas College of Health Sciences is a subsidiary of CMC. The main College is on the campus of CMC, the area’s only Level I trauma center. The College features a well-equipped computer lab, simulation labs and biology labs. There is also a campus in Concord, near Charlotte.
Enrollment is just under 600, and the pass rate for new nurses taking licensure exams is 97 percent. Carolinas College of Health Sciences has been ranked No. 3 in nursing and allied health schools in the country by Washington Monthly, which bases its list on graduation rates from the U.S. Department of Education and data from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. Affiliated schools for medical specialists include Mercy School of Nursing in Charlotte and Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in Concord.
Northeastern University opened its first satellite location in January 2012 in uptown Charlotte. The university offers a Master of Science in Health Informatics — one of the first such programs in the country. Dr. Cheryl Richards, Charlotte regional dean and CEO views the program as a way to fill demand in Charlotte for higher level degrees. In a recent interview she states, “We think there are some great opportunities to partner with health systems … I want Northeastern to help the city grow to the next level.”
Charlotte has a robust underpinning of healthcare talent based on three pillars: professional development of those already in Charlotte, graduates from a hearty educational sector, and new professionals moving into the Charlotte community. At The McAulay Firm, a retained executive search firm in Charlotte, Steve Smith recruits C-level executives for a variety of industries, including healthcare. He says quality-of-life issues rank high with recruits: “In a recent regional senior executive engagement, the Charlotte pro-business environment again was a key attribute. Our city’s significant presence of various Fortune 500 firms, including key headquarters, creates a diverse business base. This translates into a high level of professionalism that healthcare executives appreciate.”
The challenge for a vibrant medical and life science community is to know how to compete and “pre-compete” — strategically partner with others. The organizations presented here are examples of more than 3,000 choices in strategic partners.
The threads of teamwork weave a strong fabric in Charlotte’s life sciences community. The way we pre-compete makes our city a smart competitive choice for medical and bioscience professionals.