RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Meet Laura Gunter, the new president of NCBIO, or the N.C. Biosciences Organization. In an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire, Gunter talks about why she pursued the job, what she hopes to achieve, and how the organization can help ensure the life science industry across North Carolina continues to grow.

Gunter succeeds longtime president Sam Taylor, who died in February.

NCBIO acts as a lobbying group for business across the state.

Gunter succeeds longtime president Sam Taylor, who died in February.

  • Congratulations on your selection as president. What was your reaction? Were you surprised?

I was excited and happy to be chosen from a competitive pool. I wanted what was best for the organization, but I also hoped they would choose me.

  • Why did you decide to pursue the job?

I chose to pursue this position because I felt my time with NCBIO, my relationships within the state and across the country, and my understanding of the needs of the industry and how to translate that to legislators gave me the foundation needed to do the job. I adopted North Carolina as my home state back in the 90s and raised my family here.  I had opportunities in the state from my own STEM education and felt I could help further NC’s reach as a life science destination. I wanted to continue serving and being part of the industry.

NCBIO business group names replacement for late president Sam Taylor

  • What do you see as your primary mission as president?

My mission as NCBIO president is to strengthen the voice of North Carolina’s life science industry and be sure the industry is valued by lawmakers in the state. We are a member organization, and I want to be sure we are keeping our members connected to stakeholders across the state and beyond. I will work to strengthen and grow the NCBIO membership and ensure that the organization is offering services that help our members grow and innovate.

  • How has your previous experience prepared you for this role?

I’ve worked with life science companies at many levels helping them do the research by providing scientific supplies and connecting entrepreneurial companies to early-stage money from the NC Biotechnology Center and other resources. Working for the last several years at NCBIO and with Sam Taylor, I’ve continued to get to know the life science community across the state and to understand the legislative process and act as a conduit to better understanding. Translating those needs for the benefit of the industry, the state and ultimately, patients is much of what I have been doing.

  • You worked for Sam for several years. What did you learn from him, and how will his influence help shape your approach to the job?

Sam was incredibly astute and could think ahead several steps — much like I imagine a chess player does. His genius was seeing a path’s logical conclusion and figuring out how to achieve our goals in a win-win environment.  I hope that I have learned to think thoroughly through options so that we set ourselves up for success.  He was also not married to the credit when we were successful and I certainly plan to keep that in mind so that outcomes are tied to overall stakeholder success.

  • NC’s life science industry is booming – how can NCBIO ensure that the growth continues?

Communication is key to ensuring North Carolina’s life sciences industry continues to grow. Our membership is increasing and is more diverse than ever, with medical device, biomanufacturing, biopharma research, clinical research and contract manufacturing, agricultural biotech and more. The industry truly spans the state, so expanding our communication network and being sure that we do have all the right stakeholders at the table will help continue the growth.

Workforce is a big issue and an enormous opportunity for North Carolinians, so we need to be sure we are working closely with the community colleges and the universities to keep the pipeline strong.  The North Carolina General Assembly has a bipartisan, bicameral Life Science Caucus that I envision will continue to support the industry as an economic driver for the state and ensure that we have the strong, trained workforce the industry relies on.

Another key is innovation, so supporting early-stage research at the universities and companies will be important.  Programs like the One North Carolina Small Business Fund that augment and leverage federal small business research dollars will go a long way to furthering the success of small high growth, high tech, innovative companies that will form the backbone of the next wave of opportunity in the state.

  • Why do you believe NC’s life science sector has grown so much over the past decade-plus?

The state has made commitments to the industry going back to the creation of the NC BIotechnology Center, and the commitment has been maintained across changing administrations. The investment in workforce training with the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center at NC State, the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise program at NC Central, and the BioNetwork training program in the community colleges in the mid-2000s through the Golden Leaf Foundation really put NC on the road to success. The General Assembly has continued to support those institutions with ongoing funding.

  • What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I enjoy working out, reading, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, the beach, good food and spending time with my husband, two children (one who just graduated from UNC-CH and one at UNC-W), and our Siberian husky.