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

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its financial support.

So Roth stepped in as a turnaround CEO, and one of his first moves was to uncouple Connect from UC San Diego. Instead of promoting innovation at UCSD, he broadened Connect’s mission by making the group more of a non-partisan advocate for innovation throughout the region. He began to forge links with all of San Diego’s elite research institutions—and in the process learned there were more than 60 of them throughout the region.

It was a logical move, but Roth’s prominence in the life sciences and high-level contacts enabled him to establish strong ties with The Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute, and what is now the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. Along with those connections came new stakeholders and new investors, Walshok said.

Once California voters approved a 2004 ballot proposition that authorized the issuance of $3 billion in grants for stem cell R&D, Walshok said Roth also played a key role in bringing together UCSD, Scripps, Salk, and Sanford-Burnham to create the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. In fact, Walshok doubts whether anyone but Duane Roth could have brought the four major research centers together.

In the Church Before Roth Memorial

In the Church Before Roth Memorial

“Duane in my mind was exceptional at making connections,” said Rear Adm. Dixon Smith, who recently completed an 18-month tour in San Diego as commander of the Navy Region Southwest, overseeing 10 naval bases in six Southwestern states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico). In a phone call from his new command in Norfolk, VA, Smith added, “He saw connections that other people didn’t, and he knew how to put people together to create win-win situations.”

Roth’s knack for seeing opportunities and putting people together helped to foster some unexpected synergies in such emerging industries as wireless health, cleantech, and a regional cluster of action sports companies, according to Walshok. He also led efforts to … Next Page »

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  • 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

    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,

  • 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.