Gov. Mike Beebe and FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg signed an agreement to establish a nanotechnology research collaboration between the National Center for Toxicological Research and the state's five research universities.
The memorandum of understanding was signed Friday morning at NCTR's 40th anniversary celebration. NCTR is the FDA's primary research facility, located in the Jefferson community between Redfield and White Hall. Its research helps ensure the safety of food and medical products in the U.S. and worldwide.
NCTR is considered one of the world's leading toxicology centers, and annually collaborates with foreign scientists and has worked with as many as 49 foreign governments.
Under the agreement, NCTR will work with researchers at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Arkansas State University.
The agreement represents the first time the FDA has entered into an MOU with an entire state.
Joining Beebe were two members of the state's congressional delgation, Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Mike Ross, both of whom lobbied for NCTR's full $61 million funding this past year when it was threatened with a House-approved 43 percent budget cut.
"Defunding NCTR is not an option," Ross told an audience of roughly 200 gathered for the anniversary celebration. "The work done here saves lives."
Pryor said he'll introduce a nanotechnology safety bill later this year that will encourage the use of nanotech materials.
"We want to support companies that use nanotechnology materials, and my goal for NCTR is to lead the science behind that," he said.
NCTR's economic impact on the state -- $43.7 million annually in salaries with 560-plus employees living in 19 Arkansas counties -- wasn't lost on Hamburg, who called the day an affirmation of NCTR's work.
"NCTR plays an essential role in promoting the health of the world," she said.
The MOU officially establishes the framework for interactions between the state and the FDA (NCTR) and "prescribes the mechanism for future agreements." The agreement signed Friday morning establishes a virtual Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science that will include:
- A research program focused on the toxicology of products and processes associated with nanaotechnology and coordinated throughout the five research universities and NCTR.
- A regulatory science curriculum at UAMS leading to certificates and Master's degrees.
- A "working group" appointed by the governor, with an NCTR co-chair, that will coordinate all the center's activities, assess policy and other barriers, and report back annually to the state.
In addition, the working group will provide assistance in commercializing technology produced by the center's research.
Beebe said the collaboration between the universities and the federal government will lead only to good things for the state such as many new high-paying jobs.
"Add business and industry into the equation, then you have an unstoppable force," he said.
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