Providing a guiding hand to entrepreneurs and innovators

Science, innovation and entrepreneurship are the key ingredients in bringing forward new medical therapies and treatment options for patients. But these will never successfully come together at the right time and in the right quantities if they are not mixed in an environment where they can flourish.

For 40 years, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has been that environment. The discoveries by our life sciences companies, universities, medical centers and research organizations would be less available to meet human needs if not for the vital role NCBiotech plays.

My experience is just one of countless examples of how NCBiotech is a catalyzing force in helping turn ideas into commercial realities. I was privileged to help found Humacyte, a company that develops and manufactures acellular tissues for a range of diseases and conditions, in 2005. We relied on NCBiotech’s loan and grant programs for early funding while we raised additional capital and grew the company.

Julia Blum
Juliana Blum, entrepreneur-in-residence 
at NCBiotech

Fast-forward to today, and I’m more a part of NCBiotech than ever by serving as an entrepreneur-in-residence. My friends and colleagues at NCBiotech encouraged me to consider taking on this role as I decided to transition out of Humacyte in 2022. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed diving in and helping young companies in the organization’s portfolio in many of the same ways I was helped in the early days of Humacyte.

Looking back on my two decades of collaborating with NCBiotech, I can safely say that it’s the one organization that serves as the hub for entrepreneurs and innovators looking for a guiding hand.

Think about how hard it is to bring an idea to life and make it commercially viable. You’re trying to figure out how to navigate all the hurdles that come with being an entrepreneur. You might even be trying to do something no one has ever done before. The farther you get down your timeline, the more the pressure builds.

This is when you need people you can count on. One constant that entrepreneurs can rely on is NCBiotech’s ability to connect you with what you need as an early-stage company - things like banking, accounting, legal, market research, and industry news. NCBiotech has always been a community hub where people can reach out to folks to learn how to do things. This role has expanded as more companies have blossomed out of their origins here in North Carolina.

Entrepreneurs and innovators in the middle of getting their ideas off the ground might not realize it, but the challenges they face are rarely new. Others have gone before them and succeeded in moving from research idea to development pipeline to the clinic to commercialization. However, there aren’t a lot of people who have the total experience of what is required to navigate this path. NCBiotech knows who they are - and how to connect first-time and early-stage entrepreneurs to them.

As I’m on the giving end of this equation through my current role, I see the level of comfort - even relief - that these young companies experience when we explain that what they’re going through is perfectly normal. The hurdles they face are not insurmountable. It just takes perseverance and a willingness to learn from others who have traveled this road.

The support that NCBiotech gives the life sciences community is one reason why I have so much hope for people who someday will need the benefits of a therapy or discovery that can change their lives for the better. NCBiotech’s work is instrumental in nurturing innovations and discoveries across North Carolina, helping founders and company leaders build a foundation for success. I celebrate with NCBiotech all the fantastic work done over the last 40 years and look forward to the accomplishments and achievements to come over the next 40.

Juliana Blum is entrepreneur-in-residence at NCBiotech. She served as co-founder and executive at Humacyte and currently is fractional chief operating officer at Plakous Therapeutics.

Juliana Blum, Entepreneur-in-Residence, NCBiotech
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