Fred Eshelman

In 1985, Fred Eshelman took a gigantic risk. He left Glaxo, now part of GlaxoSmithKline, where he'd served as senior vice president of development and vice president of clinical operations, to go home - literally. Working in a home office, he started a one-person consulting firm called PPD. This contract research organization (CRO) grew rapidly. Over the years, Eshelman guided the company to become one of North Carolina's top five CROs. Today, PPD employs 9,100 employees in offices in 28 countries.

"PPD is kind of different from other CROs on the same level, since they tend to work more closely on projects with partners and share a certain level of risk," says Barath Shankar, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology analyst at research firm Frost and Sullivan. "They might share the profits off a...

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