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First Flight's John Draper Dies

John Draper, well known across North Carolina as an entrepreneurship leader, died unexpectedly last weekend.

Draper, 63, was president and director of the First Flight Venture Center incubator in Research Triangle Park.

Previously, Draper had served as the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Operations for the state's Technological Development Authority, which became First Flight.

An attorney, he had 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and private equity investor, several as a venture capital consultant for Kestrel Venture Management (a private equity investment firm that was a successor to Corning Venture Management).

He also founded Runtal North America, a startup company supplying cosmetically attractive architecturally engineered radiators to the construction industry.

He also worked at the Division of Sponsored Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reviewing technology for patentable innovations.

"John Draper was an attorney, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for technology start-ups," said Ken Tindall, Ph.D., senior vice president, Science and Business Development for the North Carolinda BIotechnology Center.

"As a FFVC board member, I had the pleasure of working with John for many years and under his guidance the FFVC flourished. A number of the companies that we have helped to support through the Biotechnology Center's loan programs are either residents or graduates of the FFVC. John was a key member of our community. He will be missed."

Draper held a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor's degree from Ohio Wesleyan University.

A memorial service will be held to honor Draper's life next Tuesday, July 13, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the First Flight Venture Center, 2 Davis Drive in Research Triangle Park.