Connect CEO Duane Roth in Coma with Head Injury After Bike Accident

7/22/13Follow @bvbigelow

[Updated 7/22/13 5:30 pm. See below.] Connect CEO Duane Roth has been hospitalized with a head injury after he slammed into a rock embankment in a bicycling accident Sunday morning near Lake Cuyamaca, about 52 miles east of San Diego.

The impact broke his bicycling helmet, and Roth was flown by helicopter to the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, where he underwent surgery to remove a piece of his skull so as to relieve pressure in the brain, according to David Hale, a close friend and longtime Connect board member. Roth was placed in the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

In a brief e-mail confirming the accident, NBA legend Bill Walton writes, “please say a prayer, light a candle, hope for a better tomorrow.” Roth helped Walton as executive chairman of San Diego Sports Innovators, a nonprofit affiliated with Connect that supports the local action sports industry. They have bicycled together for charity fund-raising events.

Roth “had a good night and the family is cautiously optimistic,” said Hale, who talked with Roth’s brother Ted this morning.  “Certainly at this point, we don’t know the extent of his injury,” Hale said. “He’ll probably be in ICU for four to five days.” A spokeswoman for UCSD Health was unable to provide information about his condition late today.

Roth, a longtime leader of the life sciences community in San Diego, was named to lead Connect in 2005. The San Diego nonprofit organization supports technology innovation and entrepreneurship, and boasts that it has helped stand up more than 3,000 innovative companies since the group was founded in 1985. He also serves as vice-chairman of the governing board at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the program that supports stem cell research in California.

Before joining Connect, Roth was the founder of San Diego’s Alliance Pharmaceutical, where he was chairman and CEO for more than 25 years. Before starting Alliance, he held senior management positions at Johnson & Johnson and American Home Products (now part of Pfizer).

[Updated to include developments at Connect.] In a meeting this afternoon, Connect’s executive committee named Tyler Orion as interim president “to ensure that Connect has strong leadership support during Duane’s recovery.”  Orion, who retired in 2006 as Connect’s chief operating officer, has continued to serve on the Connect Foundation and Association Boards. She previously served as CEO of the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance (RTA),  and joined Connect as COO when the RTA merged with Connect in 2005.

News of Orion’s appointment came in a statement from Paul Laikind, who is currently board chairman of the Connect Foundation and the CEO of San Diego-based ViaCyte.

“Our thoughts are with Duane and his family during this trying time,” Laikind says in the message, which is also posted on the Connect website. “I am confident that the entire San Diego business and civic community joins me in wishing him a speedy and complete recovery.”

Laikind adds, “Tyler Orion is one of Connect’s most committed and active supporters and her long-term experience with the organization makes her ideally suited to serve as interim president. We are confident in her ability to work with the excellent Connect team to continue the organization’s important mission to foster innovation and entrepreneurism in our community.”

Hale said Roth was riding through misty conditions along a downhill stretch of winding road with other bicyclists he had met through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a San Diego nonprofit that supports competitive activities for athletes with physical disabilities. He was separated from other riders at the time of the accident, however, and they did not see what happened, Hale said.

In an e-mail this morning, Laikind wrote, “Members of the Connect board are actively following the situation and are acting appropriately to minimize the impact of Duane’s absence on the day-to-day operations of Connect. The team that Duane has assembled at Connect is top-notch and we are confident in their ability to insure that Connect continues to fulfill its important mission of fostering entrepreneurism and innovation in our community during his recovery…”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Pat Rusheen

    My heart and prayers go out to Duane’s wonderful wife and the entire Roth family during this tough time. I enjoyed knowing them through Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp. Duane is in my heartfelt prayers.

  • jay kopelman

    I was one of the first to respond to Duane — along with fellow CAF cyclists, including a physician — to assist in stabilizing him at the scene. It was dry at the time of the accident, with the rain coming much later, and one rider did witness the crash. Duane is not only a brilliant and innovative leader for the San Diego biotech community, but he is also a wonderful person who is loved and respected by all in the local community. We will continue to keep Duane and his family in our thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery.

  • Charles Gillespie

    Duane is a masterful ring-leader in the San Diego (and beyond) innovation community. The entire community will miss his leadership until he gets back, but he has assembled a great team at CONNECT.

    Like any good start-up that hits a bump in the road, Duane will pivot, and come back stronger than ever… Make it quick Duane!

    Holding you and the family in the Light,
    Charles

  • DDRS

    Duane is a great and important thought leader in San Diego. He will be missed by his team and his many friends while he recovers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his beautiful wife Renee. we are all hoping for a fast and full recovery. I expect him to come back stronger then ever.

  • Bob Slapin

    Duane was one of the most committed and effective leaders in the San Diego tech community. He had an amazing skill set and great ability to lead.