ESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — North Carolina’s standard license plate bears the motto “First in Flight” — a nod to the Wright Brothers’ historic flight in Kitty Hawk — but the state is also first in clinical research organizations, which conduct studies for biotech and pharma companies and now make up a multi-billion dollar industry.

Quintiles, the world’s largest CRO, was conceived in the 1980s on the tree-lined campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The company (now QuintilesIMS) has since helped to develop all of the top 75 best-selling drugs on the market, and last year posted revenues of $5.7 billion.

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