“Solving Tomorrow” is the theme of the Life Science Conference next week in Raleigh, but North Carolina’s booming life science sector – one of the world’s biggest; the Triangle is the third biggest hub in the U.S, reports show – is solving jobs, problems, developing new drugs and medical devices today.

So much of the deserved media hype about the growing success of the Research Triangle focuses on high tech. Nothing wrong with that. But too often overlooked is the continuing growth of the region’s life science industry. And the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s annual Life Science Conference event next week will showcase that story.

Statewide, the N.C. biotech, agbio, medical device and related industries employed more than 70,000 people, according to the latest data compiled by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. And most of those (high paying, by the way) are right here in the Triangle. Jobs surged more than 6 percent – 3 times the national averages – from 2012 to 2014.

“North Carolina continues to be strong in drugs and pharmaceuticals; research, testing and medical laboratories; and agricultural feedstock and chemicals,” the Biotech Center says in its 2016 annual state-of-the-industry report based on data from research firm TEConomy.

It will be interesting to see what the data from the next report, which could be released at the CED event Feb. 28-March 1 in Raleigh, shows. By the way, the Biotech Center and trade group NCBIO are also helping put on the event, which draws attendees and investors from around the world.

WRAL TechWire in partnership with the CED is publishing a series of profiles featuring emerging entrepreneurial companies in N.C. and the region. These firms represent the next wave of what’s coming, from drugs to med devices. WTW has published 13 so far (see links with this post), and many more are coming.

The 2017 program

This week’s big show has a lineup featuring some 20 high-profile speakers as well as a variety of panel discussions on fund raising, entrepreneurship and much more.

Plus. more than 50 companies will be demonstrating their technologies and products.

Among the speakers:

  • N.C. Secretary of Commerce Anthony Copeland
  • Robert Califf, Former Commissioner, Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Murali Doraiswamy, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Health System
  • James Greenwood, CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)
  • Mark McClellan, Director and Professor of Business, Medicine and Health Policy, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Robin Smith, CEO, Orig3n

Panel discussions include:

“Follow the Money”

Moderated by Charles E. Merritt, Special Advisor; Manager of Venture Capital Multiplier Fund, Hatteras Venture Partners

  • Steve Hall, General Partner, Lilly Ventures
  • Kadir Kadhiresan, Vice President, Venture Investments, J&J Development Corp.
  • Nilesh Kumar, Partner, Novo Ventures
  • Nick Naclerio, Founding Partner, Illumina Ventures

“Trends in Corporate Funding for 2017 and Beyond”

Moderated by Adele Oliva, Partner & Co-founder, 1315 Capital

  • Karen Akinsanya, Associate Vice President, Scientific Assessment, Merck
  • Ibraheem Badejo, Senior Director, New Ventures, J&J Innovation Center
  • Alan Kriz, Strategic Alliance Manager, Bayer CropScience
  • Megann Vaughn Watters, Associate Vice President, LabCorp

“Big Deals”

Moderated by Cindy Whitehead, CEO, The Pink Ceiling

  • Shelia Mikhail, former CEO, Bamboo Therapeutics
  • Nathan Stasko, CEO, Novan, Inc.

ScaleUp Company Presentations (emerging firms discussing their growth)

  • Steve Butts, CEO, Arrivo Management, LLC
  • Myla Lai-Goldman, Chief Executive Officer, GeneCentric Diagnostics, Inc.
  • Drew Schiller, CEO & Co-founder, Validic
  • Kelly Smith, Director of Microbials Development, AgBiome

The full conference agenda can be found at: