Celebrating 40 years of innovation: NCBiotech and NC’s life sciences sector

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has helped hundreds of companies achieve amazing milestones over four decades. It’s only fitting that the state’s thriving life sciences sector stop and recognize NCBiotech’s own milestone on the 40th anniversary of its founding.

NCBiotech has been instrumental in propelling North Carolina to a prime leadership position in life sciences. As president and CEO of First Flight Venture Center, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the remarkable growth and impact of the life sciences sector in our state. Through NCBiotech’s programs and initiatives, it has not only supported but actively propelled innovation within the state and helped launch many of the companies in the business incubator program at First Flight Venture Center.

In my view, NCBiotech has done more than any other single organization to build up what has become an industry with an annual economic impact of $88 billion, employing more than 75,000 North Carolinians across the 830 life sciences companies and organizations operating here.

Krista Covey
Krista Covey, First Flight Venture Center.

These statistics are meaningful, but only tell part of the story. Behind every data point on our life sciences successes are founders, investors, researchers, supporters, customers, employees and families - all of whom have benefitted from the entrepreneurial environment we enjoy in North Carolina.

NCBiotech has consistently nurtured and inspired that environment. Its role in funding research, fostering company growth, and facilitating collaborations has had profound impacts on our nation and the world. I see it all the time as I speak with entrepreneurs involved in life sciences. They routinely point to NCBiotech as a catalyst for breakthroughs in biopharmaceuticals, agricultural biotechnology, medical devices and related fields.

Since I arrived in North Carolina four years ago, one thing about NCBiotech has stood out to me: A spirit of collaboration that brings different constituencies together for the common good of building up the state’s life sciences sector. Those of us in economic development and entrepreneurship don’t always experience such ease of working together. This collaborative model has been pivotal in bridging the gap between research and commercialization, ensuring that innovative ideas find their way from the lab to the market.

For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, First Flight Venture Center embarked on a critical initiative in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of life-saving solutions to combat the virus. As the urgency to find effective treatments and technologies grew, the need for a comprehensive understanding of the existing research landscape became crucial.

First Flight logo

It was in this context that First Flight and NCBiotech fortified our partnership, leveraging the expertise of NCBiotech's Life Sciences Intelligence team to navigate the vast sea of global biomedical research. They proved instrumental in conducting detailed landscape reviews, synthesizing data from diverse sources, and identifying potential areas of innovation that could lead to breakthroughs in COVID-19 treatment and prevention.

This collaboration between First Flight and NCBiotech exemplified the power of combining resources and expertise to address an unprecedented global health crisis. This single partnering example, out of many, is a testament to the strength of the innovation ecosystem in North Carolina and the collaborative spirit that drives its success.

The support for innovation extends beyond funding and infrastructure support to include mentorship, networking, and access to the rich talent pool that comes from our highly regarded colleges and universities, including our 58-campus community college system. The ecosystem with NCBiotech at the center helps ensure that life sciences companies in North Carolina are not only born but are also poised for growth and success on the global stage.

Working with institutions like NCBiotech leading the charge, we are more than just part of an ecosystem. We are a community bound by a shared vision of making the world a better place through innovation in life sciences.

Happy 40th anniversary, NCBiotech. Here’s to pioneering the future of life sciences, together.

Krista Covey is president and CEO of First Flight Venture Center, a Research Triangle Park-based technology incubator founded in 1991.

Krista Covey, President and CEO, First Flight Venture Center
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