A half century ago, the world was only beginning to grasp the stunning implications of Watson's and Crick's double-helix DNA structure. Amidst those earliest glimmerings of the genetic revolution, North Carolina was already laying the foundation for its 21st-century success in biotechnology. In 1959, however, the evidence of North Carolina's ambitions consisted not of gleaming scientific laboratories, but only of 3,500 acres of dense pine forest. It was the daring plan of a cadre of academic, business, and government leaders to carve from that forest a vast Research Triangle Park (RTP) that would enlist the scientific talents of the area's universities, supported by government and private investment.

Today, RTP sprawls over 7,000 acres in roughly the center of the state. It includes 19 million square...

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