Life Sciences

North Carolina has a fast growing life-sciences scene, with more than 67,000 employees and more than 770 companies. Industry leaders, such as Biogen, Bayer Crop Science, Grifols, Merck, Pfizer and PPD, have flocked to the state for its relatively low costs of living and doing business, strong research institutions and effective workforce-development programs.

GRAY ARMSTRONG

senior director of operations | Pfizer

Sanford

The N.C. State University graduate oversees commercial and clinical efforts at the Lee County site. Pfizer invested $100 million for gene-therapy clinical trial materials production in 2017 and $500 million to produce gene therapies in 2019.

ARAVIND ASOKAN

founder, acting chief scientific officer | StrideBio

Durham

The Duke University professor’s gene therapy company raised $81.5 million in March. He moved to Duke in 2018 after many years at UNC Chapel Hill, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry. He co-founded Chapel Hill-based Bamboo Therapeutics, which sold for more than $200 million in 2016.

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ANTHONY ATALA

director | Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Winston-Salem

Atala researches the use of healthy cells donated by patients to treat damaged tissue in bladders and other organs. The University of Louisville School of Medicine graduate has more than 250 patents. He chairs the urology department at Wake Forest University’s medical school.

JACK BAILEY

CEO | G1 Therapeutics

Durham

The Hobart College and UNC Chapel Hill graduate became CEO of the cancer-therapies developer earlier this year. He has nearly 30 years of industry experience, most recently leading GlaxoSmithKline’s U.S. pharmaceuticals and vaccines business.

DOUG BURNS

president | Grifols Therapeutics

Clayton

Burns, a Purdue University and University of Delaware graduate, has two decades of biotech experience. In June, Grifols announced a $351.6 million investment and 300 more jobs at the Clayton campus. The planned site will meet demand for plasma-derived medicines.

BRIAN CAVENEY

chief medical officer, president | Labcorp Diagnostics

Burlington

Modern Healthcare named Caveney among health care’s 100 most influential people in 2020. He joined Labcorp in 2017 after stints at Duke University Medical Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield. He has law and medical degrees from West Virginia University and a master’s from UNC Chapel Hill.

JIM DATIN

president, CEO | BioAgilytix Labs

Durham

Datin, 58, recently announced a $61.5 million expansion at the medical contract research organization. He has led the company since 2013. Datin has a bachelor’s degree from Marshall University and an MBA from the University of New Haven.

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FRED ESHELMAN

founder | Eshelman Ventures

Wilmington

The High Point native is a leading biotech investor and philanthropist. He started PPD in 1985 and Furiex Pharmaceuticals, which sold for $1.4 billion in 2014. He has a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill, where the pharmacy school bears his name. He earned a doctorate at the University of Cincinnati.

VERN HAWKINS

president | Syngenta Crop Protection

Greensboro

The Indiana native started with a predecessor company of the agriculture chemical giant while attending Purdue University nearly 35 years ago. The Temple University MBA graduate has held his job since 2010. The Chinese-owned company said in March it would invest $68 million at the Gate City division headquarters.

CHAD HENRY

corporate vice president, general manager | Novo Nordisk

Clayton

The N.C. State University graduate, 49, heads the Danish company’s insulin factory, leading more than 800 employees. It spent $65 million there in 2018 to expand capacity. About 90% of its diabetes treatments are used domestically.

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PHANESH KONERU

founder, president, CEO | Exela Pharma Sciences

Lenoir

Koneru immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1982. He was a pharmacist and lawyer before founding his sterile-injectables company in 2005. He is a law graduate from the University of San Diego and Columbia University and has a doctorate from the University of Southern California.

JAMIE MACDONALD

CEO | Parexel International

Durham

Macdonald has spent more than 25 years in the biopharmaceutical industry. A graduate of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, he previously led Morrisville-based INC Research, which is now Syneos Health. Parexel signed a three-year development agreement with Pfizer last year.

MARTIN MEESON

CEO | Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies

Morrisville

After 13 years with the biotech company, Meeson was named CEO in April 2020.  The Newcastle University graduate recently announced a $2 billion cell-culture factory in Holly Springs that is expected to employ more than 700 people. The company is owned by Japan’s FujiFilm and Mitsubishi.

SHEILA MIKHAIL

co-founder, CEO | AskBio

Hillsborough

Mikhail, 54, co-founded the company in 2002 as a UNC Chapel Hill spinoff. It was bought by Bayer for as much as $4 billion in October. She has a University of Chicago MBA and a law degree from Northwestern University.

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KEVIN O’BRIEN

president for North America | Merz Therapeutics

Raleigh

O’Brien, 55, joined the company in 2017 after 16 years with Allergan. He has overseen FDA approval of two drugs that treat neurological conditions. He is a graduate of Western State College of Law.

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PAUL REA

senior vice president of agricultural solutions North America | BASF

Research Triangle Park

A New Zealand native and University of Sydney graduate, Rea joined BASF Australia in 2001, moving to the United States in 2004. He leads its RTP presence, integrating $9 billion of assets from Bayer in 2018.

LAURA HELMS REECE

CEO | Rho

Durham

Reece, 51, has a Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill. Since 2011, she has led the contract-research company started by her parents.

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PATRICK RITSCHEL

CEO | Atsena Therapeutics

Durham

Ritschel has more than 25 years of business development and management and technology licensing experience. Soon after Atsena launched last year, it raised $55 million for its work on reversing or preventing blindness. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Washington University.

MARTINE ROTHBLATT

chairwoman, CEO | United Therapeutics

Research Triangle Park

After co-founding SiriusXM, Rothblatt turned to biotech to find a cure for her sick daughter. She is co-inventor on six patents for the drug Treprostinil, which treats high blood pressure. She holds degrees from UCLA and Royal College of Surgeons of England.

R. JUDE SAMULSKI

co-founder, president, chief scientific officer | AskBio

Durham

Samulski is among the state’s most acclaimed scientists with more than 200 patents for his virus therapy research. His biggest corporate successes include Bamboo Therapeutics, sold to Pfizer, and AskBio, which Bayer is acquiring. With a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, he led the Gene Therapy Center at UNC Chapel Hill for 25 years.

ADAM SCHECHTER

chairman, president, CEO | LabCorp

Burlington

After more than a decade at Merck, Schechter became LabCorp’s president and CEO in 2019 and chairman in 2020. It has performed more COVID-19 tests — 40 million — than any other commercial lab in the country over the past year. He is a La Salle University graduate.

TAYLOR SCHREIBER

co-founder, CEO | Shattuck Labs

Durham

Schreiber earned a bachelor’s degree at Bucknell University and a medical degree from the University of Miami. Shattuck, which develops cancer treatments, raised $118 million last summer, expanding its locations in Durham and Austin, Texas. He previously was chief scientific officer at Chapel Hill-based Heat Biologics.

COLIN SHANNON

CEO | PRA Health Sciences

Raleigh

The City University in London graduate joined the drug-development services provider in 2007. In February, he announced that Ireland-based ICON was purchasing PRA for $12 billion. The deal is expected to close this year, when Shannon will join ICON’s board.

DAVID SIMMONS

chairman, CEO | PPD

Wilmington

Since assuming his roles in 2012, Simmons, 56, has more than doubled the drug-development company’s workforce to 26,000. He’s a Carnegie Mellon University graduate. PPD went public in February 2020 and in April received a $17 billion takeover bid from Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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SCOTT UKNES

co-founder, co-CEO | AgBiome

Apex

With more than 40 scholarly works and 20 patents or patent applications to his name, Uknes, 60, has negotiated $450 million in research-and-development deals and raised more than $500 million in equity capital. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. at Washington University.

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ERIC WARD

co-CEO | AgBiome

Durham

Ward, 60, has 30 years of ag-biotech experience and more than 35 patents to his name. A graduate of Duke University and Washington University, his company searches for new uses of the plant microbiome.

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