5 questions for Randall Johnson

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Randall JohnsonRandall Johnson

Randall Johnson is the executive director of the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s southeastern office in Wilmington, with a focus on local and regional economic development, entrepreneurship and knowledge-sector development. He helps companies commercialize their innovations in fields including marine biotech, agricultural biotech, renewable energy, clinical research and industrial biotech.

Johnson has a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Wake Forest University. He serves on the boards of the N.C. Economic Development Association and the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina Class XV, and received the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor that recognizes individuals who have made a lifelong commitment to volunteer service.

He lives in Wilmington with his wife, Leigh, and son, Wallace (“Ace”).


What do you like best about your job?

The opportunity, on a daily basis, to improve people’s lives and favorably impact North Carolina through economic-development action and helping companies commercialize diverse life sciences innovations — that’s what I love about my job.  Whether it’s working with an entrepreneurial venture converting hog waste to energy or a marine-biotech entrepreneur farming fish or an established clinical-research company looking to attract talent and grow in the area, my role allows me to be creative and to use my expertise to benefit our economy, society, and all parts of rural and urban North Carolina. It’s never boring!

What inspires you?

Helping to move an innovative idea from someone’s mind to the marketplace: The fact that innovators are using biotechnology to address many of the local and global challenges we face and to provide societal, economic, environmental, and health benefits to all of our state is a key driver in my work. I am inspired by the capacity for biotech to generate revenue and useful products, such as energy and bioplastics, from waste products; to meet our growing global demand for food with agricultural biotech and marine fish farming; to remediate environmental issues; to derive new medicines from the sea; and to improve human health with precision medicine, nanobiotech and regenerative medicine.

Who is a role model?

I draw inspiration from a broad range of role models, including leaders such as Dr. Charles Hamner and Gov. Jim Hunt, whose lifelong dedication to public service and long-term impact on North Carolina are impressive. I also admire the entrepreneurial drive of local leaders whose commercialization efforts greatly benefit our community and state, including Brett Martin (Castlebranch/tekMountain), Chip Mahan (Live Oak Bank), Gus Simmons (OptimaKV), Julie Orr (Modoc Research), George Taylor (TruColors Brewing), Lisa Ferrara (Orthokinetic), Fred Eshelman (PPD) and many others.

What was your biggest challenge this week?

My biggest challenge is always having enough resources, especially time, to do everything I’d like to accomplish. (I suspect we’re all in the same boat on that one.)

Favorite N.C. vacation spot?

Since my wife, son and I are fortunate to live in the unmatched vacation paradise of Wilmington and surrounding beaches, we like to head to the mountains, especially the Asheville area, when we’re not “stay-cationing” at home. So many great places to visit all across our home state!

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