Internationally renowned science director coming to Arizona

March 24, 2006

By hammersmith

The man who helped turn Ireland into a scientific powerhouse is coming to Arizona, and state leaders in the biosciences hope he will do the same here.

Bill Harris, the founding director general of Science Foundation Ireland, was named the president and chief executive officer of Science Foundation Arizona (SFA). Harris, who turned down other job opportunities including the presidency of a California technical university to come to Arizona, will assume his new role this summer.

SFA is a nonprofit organization recently created to strategically advance the state’s bioscience agenda. Already Jerry Bisgrove of the Stardust Charitable Group has pledged $100 million to SFA to provide the private match required by pending legislation that would provide $150 million over five years to Arizona biosciences.

As leader of SFA, Harris will be responsible for fostering a culture that will build and strengthen medical, scientific, and engineering research programs and infrastructure in areas of greatest strategic value to Arizona’s competitiveness in the global economy. He will also work to engage scientific research, academic, and medical institutions on a global basis.

“Harris’ appointment brings incredible opportunity to the state of Arizona,” said Don Budinger, chairman and founding director of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona and founding chair of SFA. “He brings great insight into the importance of innovation coupled with the experience of how to establish a globally competitive, comprehensive research and development model with the goal of growing a more competitive knowledge driven economy.”

Harris comes to SFA after serving Science Foundation Ireland for almost five years. He was largely responsible for the institution’s success as a global bio and information and communication technology research model.

Harris’ work helped turn Ireland into an internationally collaborative partner with multiple biotech, academic-industry research groups. He also secured a sold funding base and established a comprehensive grants program with an international review system.

“On a trip to Ireland last summer I saw first-hand the results of Harris’ work,” said John Murphy, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation and a founding director of SFA. “He brings instant credibility to our aspirations for Arizona.”

Prior to his job in Ireland, Harris served as director of the mathematical and physical sciences at the U.S. National Science Foundation, founding president and executive director of Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 Centre, and as vice president for research and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of South Carolina. Harris has also authored more than 50 research papers and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Arizona has the capacity to position itself as a hub of bioscience, industry, and scientific advancements that lead to improved healthcare and quality of life throughout the state,” Harris said. “I look forward to joining Science Foundation Arizona and Arizona’s already well established bioscience partners, in distinguishing the state as a nationwide collaborator and international leader in the biosciences and related disciplines essential for a 21st century competitive economy.”

For more information:

Ariz. gets coveted science director,” Arizona Republic, 03/24/2006

Arizona bioscience shepherd has CEO,” Arizona Daily Star, 03/24/2006

Science Foundation CEO looks at how to fund proposals,” East Valley Tribune, 03/24/2006

State bioscience incubator names CEO,” Arizona Daily Sun, 03/24/2006