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Christy Shaffer

Christy Shaffer can thank the board for knowing her better than she knew herself. With products on the market and a rich pipeline, Inspire Pharmaceuticals is one of the few true successes of the Triangle biotech scene. But without the board’s trickery, she never would’ve become its boss.

Economic outlook

If you want to start a high-tech or science-heavy business in the South, there’s Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and everyone else, says Andrew Holton, assistant director for research at The Program on Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill. Those states lead the pack, often by wide margins, in most of the conventional indicators of innovation and risk-taking. Holton led a study of entrepreneurial climates in 12 Southern states.


Turner Johnson is the bravest, toughest kid I know. The son of our design/production director, he was born 12 years ago this month with a benign tumor that tethered his spinal cord to the base of his backbone. When he was 3 months old, surgeons cut it loose but couldn’t remove the growth, a glob of fatty tissue entwining itself around major nerves.

He handles liquid assets

Pinehurst native Johnny Foster fell in love with the sea at an early age. Inspired by things he read and the exploits of marine researcher and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, he got hooked on aquaculture, the cultivation of water plants and animals, when he was about 10. “I thought that would be a neat way to make a living, to be around salt water and on the water and scuba diving all the time.”

Kay Wagoner

In the 14 years since starting Icagen, Kay Wagoner, 58, has seen more ups and downs than Keith Richards’ blood-alcohol level.

Maybe it will make new code medicines

What does writing code have to do with the genetic code? Maybe nothing, but that’s not the reason Red Hat Inc. is opening an office at the state’s newest biotechnology hot spot.

Profit doesn't heal this drug developer

The day Trimeris Inc. announced it was profitable should have been a happy one. But two other announcements that same day left analysts wondering whether the 14-year-old Morrisville drug developer has much of a future.

The wonderer

Pilot Therapeutics’ odyssey leads a scientist to discover there’s more — and less — to business than he thought.

Investments inject new life into sector

When Intersouth Partners sought investors early last year, the Durham venture-capital firm didn't have to look hard. Intersouth closed its fund in May with $275 million, the most it has ever raised. "Venture fundraising has been on a tear," spokeswoman Suzanne Cantando says.

Holly Springs gets stuck by incentives

Maybe Holly Springs should hold a really big bake sale. But the town would have to sell a lot of cookies, brownies and cakes to make up the $11.8 million gap between what it has promised to spend on Swiss drug maker Novartis to land a vaccine plant and what it has on hand.

Heavy industry

There’s no dearth of girth. But rather than expand, Durham’s Rice Diet and its brethren watch their wait.

Luck of the draw

Charles Sanders knows a doc can't always pick his patients.

Biotech develops formula that nurtures job growth

Several times a week during much of the last year, Monica Doss answered her phone to find someone from the West Coast calling to ask about the state’s life-sciences industry. Most were California biotech veterans. About half told her they planned to move to North Carolina — whether a job was waiting or not.

The Atkins Diet has business cooking

John Troy’s experience with the Atkins Diet mirrored that of many Americans. He got spectacular short-term gains but couldn’t maintain them.

Reign maker

While Charlotte calls itself the Queen City, the rest of North Carolina calls it other names: The Great State of Mecklenburg is the nicest. Why the hard feelings? That’s what Senior Editor Arthur O. Murray asked five leaders who live and work in Charlotte or its surrounding counties: Walter McDowell, North Carolina president of Charlotte-based Wachovia Corp.; Joan Lorden, UNC Charlotte provost; Jerry Orr, aviation director of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport; Lynne Scott Safrit, president of Atlantic American Properties Inc. in Kannapolis and the person overseeing development of California billionaire David Murdock’s proposed biotechnology project there; and Ronnie Bryant, chairman and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

Grow your own

Tony Atala is on the hot seat, though he’s fielding easy questions. He struggles to recall he’s 46, was born in South America and grew up mostly in Boca Raton, Fla. Asked when he got his bachelor’s from the University of Miami, he tilts his eyes toward a spot near where the ceiling meets a wall. “I got a bachelor’s there in, uh, uh — I forget the year, but it’s on my CV.”

Money proves to be real pill for industry

Executives at life-sciences companies in North Carolina have at least one thing to be thankful for: Their industry’s popularity with venture capitalists isn’t fading as fast as it has for some others. Through three quarters of 2004, they had grabbed 29% of the venture capital received by North Carolina companies, compared with 14.4% during the first nine months of 2000.

Firm returns from the grave a profit

Imagine Perry Mason confronting a wife who has bumped off her husband for the insurance money. “He was worth more to you dead than alive, wasn’t he?” Durham’s Volumetrics Medical Imaging Inc. is like that. It was buried in February 2001, but thanks to a lawsuit, it’s worth more than ever.