North Carolina: a Global Life Science Leader, Sara Imhof, Senior Director, Precision Health

In 1984, state leaders created the North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBiotech) to catalyze a North Carolina life science economy.

Today, we celebrate the success of 735+ life science companies and 2,400 supporting businesses, along with the 240,000 jobs connected to the life sciences statewide.  NCBiotech activities have led to positive impacts for the state of North Carolina in innovation, investment and job creation as well as identifying ways to use the life sciences to create solutions and new opportunities.

NCBiotech leads life science economic development efforts for the state. We make investments to support innovative life science technologies at N.C. academic institutions and in N.C. life science start-ups that are working to bring life science products to the market. Actively engaging N.C. industry partners, NCBiotech works to understand current and future workforce needs and supports training programs to meet those needs. Leveraging a deep understanding of N.C. assets and resources, NCBiotech works to identify and grow life science sectors in which the state has significant strengths, such as biomanufacturing, precision health, contract research and testing, and agriculture technologies.

On the economic development front, NCBiotech’s efforts have helped make North Carolina a top-rated state for business as measured by Forbes. The Raleigh-Durham metro area, a.k.a. the Research Triangle, is the nation’s fourth-leading life science base among major metro hubs, ranking only behind Greater Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, according to the 2019 Life Sciences Outlook by Jones Long LaSalle.

As precision technologies continue to play an ever-larger role in the development of future therapeutics, North Carolina is quickly becoming a hub for gene, cell and immunotherapy biomanufacturing.  In the last three years, AveXis, bluebird bio, Cellectis, Audentes and Pfizer have all created or expanded gene therapy manufacturing plants in the state. All total, these firms will invest $905 million and employ around 1300 establishing their operations in NC.  In order to feed the talent pipeline, NCBiotech and Pfizer partnered to establish the Pfizer-NCBiotech Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship in Gene Therapy (PfizerGTF). This $4 M program supports the scientific and professional development of exceptional postdoctoral fellows interested in establishing careers in gene therapy. Recently, Burlington-based LabCorp announced a suite of cell and gene therapy development services through its drug development services subsidiary, Covance, to better serve biopharmaceutical companies developing cell and gene therapies for cancer and other diseases.

Other economic development announcements continue to grow the N.C. precision health ecosystem. In November 2019, a joint venture between IQVIA and Quest Diagnostics, Q2 Solutions, announced plans for a new $73 million precision medicine facility in Durham to transform innovative genomics testing and data into actionable medical insights that improve human health. There are many other companies in the state working on precision health innovation and services delivery – including the plethora of Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) based in our state. A breakdown of these companies can be accessed from the NCBiotech Company database.

NCBiotech itself encourages the growth of precision health technologies in N.C. through its grants and loans programs. This early stage funding is often critical to translating technologies out of an academic lab and into a commercial environment.

NCBiotech continues to prioritize precision health science and technology development, to grow the related industrial and service-oriented commercial ecosystem, and foster a collaborative culture including thought leaders across the state.

You’ll meet many of our experts and sponsors if you’ll join us at the Precision Medicine Leaders’ Summit–RTP  at NCBiotech on April 30, 2020, in particular those from our leading academic institutions: Duke Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Center for Precision Medicine, University of North Carolina’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and North Carolina State University.