I’m always surprised at the parallel universes occupied by entrepreneurs in the tech and life science sectors here in the Triangle. They’re both full of smart people who want to change the world, yet there are few points of intersection between the two networks. 

At CED, the nation’s largest and longest-running entrepreneurial support network, we firmly have a foot in both camps, and think there are many good reasons to bring the two communities together. With the CED Life Science Conference scheduled for March 3-4 at the Raleigh Convention Center, I propose five reasons why tech entrepreneurs should check out the action: 
  • Dennis Gillings’ victory lap. There are few entrepreneurs with a better story to tell than Gillings, the former UNC biostatistics professor who started Quintiles in a trailer on campus in 1982. As CEO for more than 30 years, he built Quintiles into the world’s largest pharmaceutical services company, with revenue topping $4 billion last year. Gillings, pictured above, has served as executive chairman of the board since Tom Pike took over as CEO in 2012, and now he will relinquish that role, while retaining a seat on the board. Come hear him deliver the closing keynote recounting his amazing journey. 
  • Jenny Wang is not your typical high school student. Each year, we feature a standout from the North Carolina School of Science and Math, and this year it’s the senior from Cary (pictured right above) who competed in the regional finals of the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. She’ll present her research, in which she created a computer algorithm to better understand neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Makes you wonder how you were spending your time as a teenager, doesn’t it? 
  • Fifty companies solving complex problems. Yes, these were the folks who looked forward to advanced inorganic chemistry, and spent many hours in the lab. But just like you, they see problems to solve, and have taken the plunge to create companies aimed at finding solutions. Among the technologies featured this year are better diagnostic tests to screen newborns for debilitating diseases, a compound that protects bone marrow from damage during chemotherapy, and a treatment for thermal burns caused by a bioterrorism attack. Meet the entrepreneurs in the Demo Room and watch them present on the main stage. 
  • Convergence is the name of the game. Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is changing the way health care is delivered – and with it, the need for keeping records, monitoring patient outcomes, and figuring out how to keep us from getting sick in the first place. The digital health companies showcased here could just as easily take the stage at a tech conference. They’ll demonstrate mobile apps and services to better connect doctors and patients, show technologies designed for home health care providers, and introduce tablet-based tools that make it easier for people to age in their homes. 
  • You just might learn something. Life sciences are a big part of the region’s economy. Maybe there’s an opportunity to serve this group that hasn’t occurred to you before—after all, they all use advanced technology and process boatloads of data. Why not consider it a field trip for new business development? At the very least, you’ll be amazed at the sophisticated level of discussion and passion for innovation, even if most people in the audience will be wearing business suits. Come as you are, and you’ll be sure to generate some interesting conversations. 

The CED Life Science Conference will be held March 3-4 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Discounted rates for entrepreneurs; pre-registration ends February 26.