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"Walk Through Open Doors" - A summary of the second annual Exchanging Ideas Summit

The second annual Exchanging Ideas Summit at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center on March 26 brought together diverse members of the life science community from industry, academia, and government.

Opening remarks from Ken Tindall, Ph.D., senior vice president for science and business development at NCBiotech, highlighted the breadth of life science endeavors in the state and touched on the importance of networking and collaborations in building partnerships.

The event included three dynamic and fascinating speakers sharing their views on North Carolina’s life science landscape from very different vantage points. Yet, all of the presentations provided some unifying themes including a common goal of working to improve the human condition, the significance of partnerships, and the importance of facing hard truths. Although the speakers touched on serious topics, the mood of the event was uplifting.

Karin LeVert, M.B.A., CEO and co-founder of Southeast TechInventures, set the evening’s tone as Master of Ceremonies with her perspectives on the challenges in getting technology commercialized. Karen’s presentation showed that numerous steps and partners are needed to gain entry into the commercial marketplace. She noted that sometimes a change in direction is important in reaching the final goal, noting that one should “walk through open doors - sometimes doors close for a reason.”  Karen also pointed out that while optimism is a good thing, there is an important “difference between optimism and denying reality!”

Featured Speaker John Cavanagh, Ph.D., distinguished professor of biochemistry from North Carolina State University and co-founder of Agile Sciences, also indicated the importance of partnering to accomplish your goals. He noted that he was busy fulfilling multiple roles at the university and thus happily relied on others to guide Agile Sciences forward. John discussed the challenges faced by professors who not only must advance their own research, but who also play an important role in guiding and training the next generation of researchers.

John also discussed the fascinating discoveries that led to the founding of Agile Sciences. He and his research partners have developed compounds from marine sponges that disperse colonies of bacteria and make old antibiotics work like new again. With fewer and fewer effective antibiotics available, this discovery could regain lost ground in the war against infectious disease. (Click for more on Agile).

Finally, keynote speaker John Hardin, Ph.D., executive director of the North Carolina Board of Science & Technology, took the podium to reveal findings from the recently released Tracking Innovation North Carolina Innovation Index 2013. The Index tracks North Carolina’s progress against six comparison states and the overall US on 38 innovation measures. These measures are important for the economic well-being of the state. John’s report shows that North Carolina faces numerous challenges in spreading innovation beyond urban areas to rural regions across the state. Nonetheless, instead of being reactive, North Carolina can focus on strategic recruitment and play to our strengths in attracting and growing innovative businesses in the state.

A lively Q&A discussion followed the presentations, and was in turn followed by a networking reception that kept the conversation going. Attendees found the program refreshing and invigorating.

Laura Kiefer, patent attorney and co-founder of NK Patent Law, said, “I especially enjoyed the Summit last year and was again pleasantly surprised by the speakers linking technology with issues of importance to all North Carolinians.  For example, John Hardin presented data showing that while the RTP area is competitive in measures of innovation, our state as a whole ranks below average. This was a wake-up call for me. Having the data allows for informed decision making about investment and policy decisions that will affect NC’s economy and standard of living for its citizens for years to come.“

If the feedback from this event is any indication, the audience is already looking forward to the third annual Exchanging Ideas Summit.

Visit the Exchanging Ideas Summit page to view photos and additional information about this event.

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