A decade or two ago, North Carolina was known for few things: tobacco farming, furniture building, and the first flight of the Wright brothers. Most of all, North Carolina held a reputation as the training ground for astounding basketball players, including Grant Hill, Michael Jordan, David Thompson, and many others. The cognoscenti, however, imagined a new status for the state. Even as early as the mid-20th century, teams of academic scientists, government officials, and industry leaders were working on a new transition, in which science and technology would drive North Carolina's economy.

Forward-thinking leaders in North Carolina's government helped drive this biotech transition, as described in a series of articles starting on here. In September 1956, the Research Triangle Committee started a process that turned forest into future biotech success. With the strong support of three governors and...

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