Since then, the life science development group has scoured the country for his successor and vetted 200 candidates: concluding with James Chappell, an executive with Louisiana Economic Development. He assumed the role of CEO starting Nov. 8.
“As a South Carolina native, I am thrilled to join SCBIO and return home,” Chappell said in a news release. “South Carolina has become an emerging leader in life sciences, and I am excited to continue SCBIO’s great work in helping to grow the life sciences industry.”
Chappell, whose career also includes time with Chartic Management Consulting in Boston, joined Louisiana Economic Development in 2013 and held positions of increasing responsibility at the organization, including executive director of state economic competitiveness, before being named the organization’s executive director of competitiveness and entrepreneurship in 2021, according to the release.
During his tenure at Louisiana Economic Development, Chappell designed and implemented the state’s $100 million venture capital and small business funds, developed strategies to recruit international companies to the state and joined the Louisiana MediFund board to develop strategies to foster the biosciences and health care industries in Louisiana.
Chappell earned his B.S. and M.S. in plant environmental sciences from Clemson University, his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and a postdoctoral fellowship in stem cell biology focusing on cancer and diabetes from Harvard Medical School. A three-year varsity football letterman while at Clemson, he is married with two children. He will begin his new role with SCBIO on Nov. 8.
“Competition for the position was extremely strong but we unanimously felt that his credentials in both life sciences and economic development were the precise mix we sought as we continue to build, advance and grow the industry in South Carolina,” Lou Kennedy, board chair of SCBIO and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, said in the release.
Life sciences has a $12 billion economic impact in the Palmetto State, with more than 700 firms involved and more than 43,000 professionals employed in the research, development and commercialization of new health care, medical device, industrial, environmental and agricultural biotechnology products.
South Carolina life sciences has seen a near-doubling of firms and 40% increase in life sciences’ direct employment since 2017, which combine to make it the fastest growing industry sector in the state, according to data provided by Joseph Von Nessen, state research economist with the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.
In April, Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order to strengthen the Commerce Department’s efforts to recruit and support life science companies in the state in partnership with SCBIO, according to a previous report.
Interim CEO Erin Ford will remain with SCBIO, where she has managed the organization on a day-to-day basis since 2017.
“Erin continued to do a strong and stellar job in leading the organization, charting the path, and maintaining the momentum without missing a beat during this national search, and our board and membership are grateful to her,” Kennedy said in the release. “The entire board and SCBIO membership are excited that she will remain a key part of the organization in her prior role of executive vice president and COO to add a steady and experienced hand to crafting an exciting new future.”