WILMINGTON—A growing effort puts a spotlight on a thriving, behind-the-scenes industry in Southeastern, North Carolina.
The NC Coast Clinical Research Initiative brings companies, corporations, medical professionals and educators together to try and strengthen the well-established clinical research community.
From large global companies like PPD and AAIPharma, to small support companies like Modoc Research Services, all of these call the Port City home.
Students in UNC Wilmington's Clinical Research and Product Development program said that's great news for them.
"There are so many options, there are so many fields that you can go into. You can be in data management, you can go in the clinical side, you can work with patients, you can travel, you can monitor, there are a ton opportunities,” said UNCW Clinical Research student Cait Chizmar.
UNCW is part of the initiative created to bring visibility to this thriving industry that has room to grow.
"This is an industry that has been a little bit backdoorish, behind-the-scenes. It uses a different language. It uses a different structure to produce its product and so getting information out there is powerful," said Dr. Charlie Hardy, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services.
Based on a report on the industry, there are more than 70 clinical research and biotechnology companies in the region. They employ more than 2,775 and in 2009, the average salary was a $85, 119.
"This particular industry has incredible potential because when you look at the need for drug and medical device development, that's not going to go down," said Hardy.
But to feed that growing need both big and small companies said they need talent and they would like to find it locally.
"I think some of the newer programs on campus, the clinical research program, other programs within the bio-stats area, all of that will bring strength to the labor force that's already here and that really is what's going to grow the clinical industry," said President and CEO of Modoc Research Services Julie Orr.
While UNCW and its students have a big job to do, they said at least they know they have one.
"I have many friends who have had to move away or move out of the state to find jobs. I'm one of the few majors that I know of that has a great opportunity to stay here or work anywhere in the nation," said Chizmar.
Experts said there are currently more than 100 clinical trials going on in the region and that number could increase if the industry receives more support and resources.