Duane Roth: The Connector Who Wired Up a Regional Innovation Economy

8/12/13Follow @bvbigelow

(Page 2 of 6)

commercialize oxygen-carrying perfluorochemicals as a way to supplement ventilation for patients in acute respiratory distress. He served as chairman and CEO of Alliance Pharmaceutical, but the public company was unable to win FDA approval for its LiquiVent and Oxygent products. By 2004, Roth was unwinding the business when he was approached to take over Connect, and Alliance eventually licensed its technology to PFC Development Corp. of Thousand Oaks, CA.

“Initially, he played from his strengths” in the life sciences industry, said Mary Walshok, a sociologist and the associate vice chancellor for public programs at UC San Diego. “But he broadened his relationships over time, because his role required him to. He became less of a biotech guy, and more of an innovation guy as time went on.”

Connect was founded in 1985 as a UCSD program under Walshok’s purview. It was a time when San Diego’s scientific community was isolated from the business community, and scientists showed little zeal for starting new companies. Walshok said Connect’s initial mission was to bring the worlds of elite scientists and entrepreneurs together.

Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson

The innovation community here faced a wholly different challenge when Roth took over Connect near the end of 2004. It was a post-Internet, post-human genome world—and Connect was a pale imitation of what it had been during the 1990s.

“Connect was basically bankrupt when he took over,” said David Hale, the veteran biotech industry executive and Connect board member who talked Roth into taking the job. “Through his sheer persistence and vision and commitment, and with help from the [Connect] board, we brought Connect back to be a very significant and important organization in the community—to support innovation in San Diego.”

Connect was nearly extinguished by the university that had helped to create it. In the years before Roth was named to lead Connect, then-UCSD Chancellor Robert Dynes had decided that Connect should work to benefit UCSD more directly. The problem with Dynes’ directive, Roth’s predecessor told me at the time, was that Connect’s funding came entirely from the San Diego business community. The group lost its relevance, and then it lost … Next Page »

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

Single Page Currently on Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 previous page

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • Karina Lion

    Bruce, This is a wonderful reportage about Duane, who was a friend and mentor. Thanks for your remembrance of his great contributions to our tech and bio community. Your compassionate coverage of his legacy and untimely passing have helped us get through this tragic loss. Regards, Karina Lion

  • Mark Leibowitz

    Bruce
    Thanks for this compelling description of the memorial and tribute to Duane’s contributions. I found the memorial to be very inspiring and hope that it will serve to motivate the San Diego innovation community to continue Duane’s work with renewed passion.
    Take care,
    Mark

  • Chris Stiehl

    I loved Duane as a friend, colleague and advisor in the work my wife and I did for CIRM. As Bruce reports here, Duane was always making connections and looking for ways for everyone to win. He gave you his full attention when you asked for his help. His response always considered all of those who may be affected by your actions, both now and in the future. One of our proudest accomplishments was having his support in our work to spread the good news about CIRM. We also saw he and Rene at charity events all over San Diego, often seeing him at two Galas on the same evening! He was a humble giant among men. He will be missed.