Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews from WRAL TechWire featuring “Legends – The men and women who helped create and build North Carolina’s technology and life science ecosystem.” These leaders will join Jim Goodnight, Monica Doss, Dennis Dougherty, Charles Hamner and Venessa Harrison as members of WRAL TechWire’s virtual Hall of Fame, which named its first members in 2017.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – The North Carolina Biotechnology Center celebrates its 35th anniversary at a special event today, but one longtime veteran of the state’s life science industry will appear only via a short video presentation. He deserves much more.
Robert (Bob) Ingram, general partner at Durham-based Hatteras Venture Partners, the region’s leading investor in early stage life sciences companies, will be attending board meetings in Switzerland on Tuesday. A longtime supporter of the Biotech Center’s mission, he will appear at the event only via video. Ingram, previously CEO and chair of Glaxo-Welcome, who co-led its merger into GlaxoSmithKline, has played major roles in the area’s life science community for 30 years.
Ingram said he’s proud of the fact that Glaxo seeded many NC companies with talent and leadership. “It was such a big player for a long time, but it’s had a broader influence in creating many diverse companies that benefited from Glaxo training.”
“You also have to give credit to the Biotech Center and the visionary people who started it for playing a key role in building the ecosystem here in NC and helping it expand,” Ingram said.
The Biotech Center, announcing its 35th anniversary celebration, said of biotech in the state, “A handful of companies has grown to more than 700. Major names in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and contract research have grown – and changed names – and, along with cutting-edge startup companies, now employ more than 64,500 of us. The far-reaching ripple effects of this sector support 240,000 jobs for North Carolinians.”
And Ingram has been an essential player in that growth.
‘We stack up evenly’
In an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire we asked Ingram the secret to how NC established itself as a national and global biotech hub.
“Collaboration and partnerships among government, academics, private companies large and small, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the region’s medical schools,” is the answer, said Ingram.
“We talk about the Research Triangle,” he said, “but we’re also part of a larger Triangle, Boston, the California Bay area, and the Research Triangle.” He points out that the Research Triangle universities, medical schools and startups land a competitive number of NIH grants. “We stack up almost evenly and get as many NIH grants here as does the Bay area.”
Additionally, Ingram said, the Triangle is a world leader in diagnostics, with LabCorp headquartered in Burlington, and in contract research organizations, with Quintilis, and PPD, among others in the state, and is number one in developing and making vaccines.
Burroughs Wellcome, created by nobel prize winners, led in the development of treatments for HIV AIDs, as did other Triangle-based companies, Ingram notes. “Now instead of dying from AIDs, you die with it. We’ve turned it into a chronic disease.”
Bio: Robert ‘Bob’ Ingram
Mr. Robert Ingram, also known as Bob, is a General Partner at Hatteras Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early stage life science companies. Prior to joining Hatteras, Mr. Ingram was Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of GlaxoWellcome. Mr. Ingram co-led the merger and integration that formed GlaxoSmithKline. Upon reaching mandatory retirement age of 60, Mr. Ingram served as the Vice Chairman, Pharmaceuticals at GSK before becoming Strategic Advisor to the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Plc. Mr. Ingram is Chairman of the boards of Novan, Inc., a late-stage pharmaceutical company focused on dermatology, and the Board of BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He recently retired as the Chairman the Board of Cree, Inc. and the Board of Selenity Pharmaceuticals Inc. In 2013, Bob received the NACD B. Kenneth West Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Corporate Directors.
At the request of US President George H.W. Bush, Bob formed and chaired the CEO Roundtable on Cancer. In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Advisory Board. He accepted his third Presidential appointment most recently in 2019, when he was appointed by President Donald J. Trump’s administration to serve on the Presidential Cancer Panel. In 2014, Bob received the North Carolina Award for public service, the highest civilian honor the state can bestow on an individual. Bob currently serves on the board of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, the Research Triangle Institute, and is Chairman of the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.
Bob graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a BS degree in Business Administration.
COMMUNITY AND BOARD ENGAGEMENTS
Bob is a member of numerous other civic and professional organizations, including the Boards for the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, CEO Roundtable on Cancer, and the Advisory Council of the Congressional Task Force on Biomedical Research and Innovation.
Source: Hatteras Ventures
‘We need a grand slam’
This is a state that managed to transition from traditional industries such as tobacco, furniture and textiles to the high impact, high quality, well-paying jobs in areas such as biotech and financial services, he notes.
Going forward, he said, the region’s work on precision medicine, gene therapy, agbiotech, will make the state increasingly attractive to investors. “We have a great foundation and a nucleus of young, maturing biotech companies. Some won’t make it. But we only need one or two like Genentech and the rest is history..”
Ingram admits the Triangle could use more venture capital and expects we’ll see it because the area has distinct advantages over Boston and the Bay area. Those include lower cost of living and doing business, less traffic, and that intangible often noted in national surveys and awards, a high quality of life.
The area has not yet had a grand slam such as some from Boston and the Bay area “But I have no doubt that over time, one of the state’s young biotech companies will have the potential to become that grand slam.”
Working in the life sciences is a source of pride for Ingram. “It’s rewarding to see people come up with creative ideas, see their ideas become a reality, and ultimately help a patient.”