‘Rainmaker’ makes good on promise of Arizona’s future

September 26, 2003

By hammersmith

In 1989, Richard Mallery could look out the window of his east-facing office in the Bank One building and watch the construction of the Herberger Theater Center. It was an appropriate view for the leader who had developed the concept and become its founding president. Mallery had launched the center in the hope of revitalizing downtown Phoenix and providing a showcase for cultural excellence in the Valley. He succeeded. Since its completion, the center has served more that two million patrons, and is currently home to about 450 productions per year.

Fourteen years later, Mallery still stands at the vanguard of revitalization efforts, now for the entire state of Arizona. Once again, he is guiding a nascent organization leading the way to an optimistic vision of opportunity for Arizona. The only change is the office: now located in the Arizona Center, it overlooks the Phoenix Bioscience Center at Copper Square, future home of the headquarters for International Genomics Consortium (IGC) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Mallery has been called many things in the course of his remarkable career: “visionary,” “power broker,” and “master of the art of the deal” are perhaps the most commonly employed descriptors. His reputation is not undeserved; if there is a major deal brewing somewhere in Arizona, chances are you will find Richard Mallery somewhere near the center of it, developing the strategy, pulling the pieces together, building consensus, and finding creative solutions–in short, making the deal happen.

“That’s what creative lawyering should be,” he says. “Lawyers are in a unique position to transcend the boxes, because we understand the whole system–how we can bring people together and do something original. We are architects who can design new structures and carry out new ventures. This is my mission.”

Beyond his role as one of the most influential players in the West, Mallery is also actively involved in several international and national organizations: He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City; a founding director and executive committee member of the Pacific Council on International Policy based in Los Angeles; and a member of the Board of Overseers of The Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He served as Special Representative and Counselor of Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; International Vice President and U.S. Chair of the Pacific Basin Economic Council based in Washington, D.C.; and as Chair of the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School. His past trusteeships include the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, D.C.; DePauw University, Indiana; and Hudson Institute, New York.

Mallery summed up his career in an interview with Arizona Attorney: “I am essentially a transactional lawyer,” he said. “I have done many public-private consortia, in the corporate world, the academic world, and the foreign policy world. The Herberger Theater Center and the Pacific Council are simply public-private consortia.” It is a mundane description for the complex and involved projects tackled by this Stanford Law graduate in the course of his career; but, then, perhaps that is just because they pale in comparison to the Herculean task in which he finds himself today.

Four years ago, IGC was a cocktail-napkin idea, conceived by a lawyer, a cancer physician, and a genetic researcher. A year and a half ago, it was a rough sketch, rapidly being filled in by everyone from public officials to private foundations. Today, it is a reality, as tangible as the ground recently broken for its future headquarters.

Like many great ventures, IGC was born in pain. It was an idea conceived amid a personal crisis, a dream of putting an end once and for all to the ravages of cancer. Today, thanks in large part to Mallery’s vision and talent for rallying support, IGC is a reality, and he is at the helm. It has come a long way since its conceptual birth in a Tucson hospital four years ago, but as Mallery would be the first to tell you, it is just getting started.

A fateful gathering

Mallery does not like to talk about his wife’s cancer. Yet to understand him, to understand the sudden and rapid course change that led him to conceive and establish IGC, one must start in a hospital room at the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona, where his wife, Francie Mallery, was treated for a rare and aggressive form of gynecological cancer.

Francie’s diagnosis came as a shock to the couple. All of her relatives had lived into their eighties and nineties. Francie, a nutrition enthusiast, was herself the picture of physical fitness.

The Mallerys endured the grueling process of treatment together. They endured the chemotherapy, the radiation, and the two-hour drives to Tucson from Phoenix. Francie bounced back from five major abdominal surgeries before finally succumbing to the illness.

The story would not end there.

“I promised Francie that something good would come from her death,” says Mallery, “and I have a promise to keep.”

Francie’s illness had raised a number of questions in Mallery’s mind. As he watched the surgeons who operated on his wife throw away her tumorous tissue, he had begun to wonder whether that standard practice was in reality a missed opportunity. The 200-mile round trip to Tucson and back to Phoenix also inspired him–this time to help create a Phoenix facility for the Arizona Cancer Center.

As the questions accumulated, he began to wonder whether more could be done to help his wife and patients like her. He began to ask questions.

Mallery turned to researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center for answers, and he found them–and then some. Instead of empty explanations muttered by physicians too busy to consult with him, he instead found a man who would help him conceptualize an answer, who could meaningfully discuss what needed to be done on a practical level to address Mallery’s concerns. He met Dr. Daniel Von Hoff.

Von Hoff, a leading cancer researcher and drug developer at the University of Texas in San Antonio, had come to Arizona in 1999–the same year Francie had been diagnosed with cancer–at the request of his friend Sidney Salmon. Salmon, who had been the driving force behind the creation of the Arizona Cancer Center, was dying of pancreatic cancer and wanted Von Hoff to take over for him.

Now that Francie’s cancer had brought Mallery and Von Hoff together a grand idea was in the offing.

“As soon as Francie pulled through the immediate crisis, I approached Dan and told him I needed to do something,” Mallery recalls. “I asked a series of questions: “How can I help and make a difference?”  Dan replied, “We should develop therapies which hit specific targets in patient tumors.”  My next question, “How do we do it?” His answer, “Genomics.”  I inquired, “Who is the best?” His response, “Jeff Trent.” And I immediately said, “Okay. Let’s get Jeff. Let’s do it!”

Von Hoff introduced Mallery to Trent, intramural scientific director at the National Institutes of Health’s Human Genome Project (NHGRI) and a groundbreaking researcher in the field of cancer genomics. The timing was fortuitous; under Trent’s leadership, the NHGRI had become one of the strongest genomics programs in the world, and Trent was looking for a way to translate the vast body of information that it had generated into disease prevention and treatment. In short, he was looking for a way to bring the fruits of his labor from bench to bedside.

Tissue collection, gene-expression analysis, technology transfer: the elements were now complete for Mallery, Von Hoff, and Trent to conceive the framework of a research enterprise. As they worked, the concept grew to much more than that. Ultimately, they conceived nothing less than an approach to unraveling the mysteries of cancer that they believed could work.

“As I started the quest for some better treatment for Francie, I quickly became aware of the potential of genomics,” Mallery told Arizona Attorney. “It was instantly clear to me that the only way to take advantage of the current revolution in genomics was to create a nonprofit entity that would be a partnership between industry and academia and, in effect, the clinicians who treat patients. It started with cancer, but we quickly realized that genomics would benefit anyone with a complex disease.”

The idea began to catch on. “By the time of Francie’s death, IGC had commitments from nineteen top medical research centers around the country and strong expressions of support from major pharmaceuticals, computational and medical technology companies, and charitable foundations,” says Mallery. “We had successfully launched the pilot study for IGC’s gene-expression database at Scottsdale Healthcare, proving the concept was feasible.”

IGC was born.

The right man for the job

The best ideas, however well conceived, need more than belief to make them real. They need money–and the support of powerful people. In the case of IGC, the idea required an individual with an unusual combination of traits; it needed Mallery.

When it comes to political and financial clout, few Arizonans can stand beside Mallery. A managing senior partner at Snell & Wilmer and one of Arizona’s most powerful attorneys, Mallery sports a curriculum vita that speaks loud and clear for his powers of persuasion. A founder of COMPAS (an organization that has raised $10 million for nonprofit arts and science organization over 35 years), he was also responsible for establishing the Greater Phoenix Leadership, formerly known as Phoenix 40, and is strongly linked to Valley Leadership, for which he served as founding secretary/treasurer and director.

Mallery encapsulated his view of himself as a community activist when he was honored recently as “Man of the Year” by Valley Leadership: “I prefer to think of myself as a community servant rather than a community leader.”

A key to Mallery’s success in these endeavors is the level of access he enjoys–access that is confined by neither political party nor economic sector. His political allies have included former Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt and ex-Republican Governor Fife Symington. He built his personal fortune in real estate development and has been a key driving force over the past four decades in building the economic and educational infrastructure of Arizona.

“I have had the privilege of learning from and working with some great leaders, such as Frank Snell, Gene Pulliam, Barry Goldwater, Bud Jacobson, Sandra O’Connor, Bruce Babbitt, and the Herbergers,” says Mallery. “Now I have the privilege of serving such visionary scientists as Jeff Trent, Dan Von Hoff, Dave Alberts, and George Poste.”

Mallery’s mix of experience and access make him the ultimate utility player. He can pull a deal together, get disparate groups talking, and find sources of funding where none were thought to exist. It is all in a day’s work when you are trying to make a miracle happen.

It has been said that perhaps no one person could have pulled together so much support from so many sources in such a short period of time as Mallery has for IGC and TGen. To understand why, one must first understand the unique challenge presented by IGC, and the way in which Mallery was uniquely qualified to meet that challenge.

The rainmaker

Bringing something like IGC to a place like Arizona is, among other things, the ultimate exercise in salesmanship. It is the selling of a dream, the promise of something wonderful: no less than a cure for cancer and a shot in the arm for Arizona’s flagging economy all rolled into one. To establish IGC, to place Arizona firmly on the biosciences map, it takes someone like Mallery, someone who understands the dynamics of Arizona and the power of language to motivate people.

“Dick is tenacious about seeking solutions to knotty problems,” says Bill Shover, retired director of community affairs for Phoenix Newspapers. “And he’s also a master of bringing people with diverse interests together under one banner.”

Consider: At the time that Mallery and his partners were trying to bring IGC together, few in the state understood the technology underlying the consortium’s plan; fewer still comprehended the business plan that would produce the financial return on investment necessary to make it work. Times were far from propitious for bold new ventures: Political leaders were under mounting pressure to restructure Arizona’s low-wage economy, and the Legislature was cutting $1 billion from the state budget.

“Dick Mallery was central to moving this project forward,” says Sheryl Sculley, assistant manager for the City of Phoenix. “He’s very committed to Phoenix and to downtown Phoenix, especially. He’s a perfect example of how one person can make a difference.”

The rock-hard caliche of Arizona’s economic and political landscape seemed ill-suited to the sowing of dreams, but sow them Mallery did; and, slowly at first, then with mounting momentum, they began to take root. In a year of drastic budget cuts, the Legislature allocated $30 million for genomics. The three universities joined together to kick in $8.2 million in Proposition 301 research money toward the establishment of TGen, IGC’s companion organization. The City of Phoenix offered $42 million. In the end, over $100 million in public and foundation monies were raised, at a time when the details of the deal still remained to be solidified.

Too much to hope for? Not for an Arizona optimist.

“The moment I arrived in Phoenix 51 years ago, I connected with the beauty of the land and the optimism of the people,” recalls Mallery. “I grew up Western with the values of the West, believing that an individual can make a difference, can solve problems, and can shape the future. As Arizonans, we are optimistic architects of our own future.”

The vision becomes a reality

In IGC’s brief history, the nonprofit public utility has brought together an array of world-renowned genetic and cancer researchers, assembled a board of directors headed by Mallery, and broken ground on its downtown headquarters; but the process of building the consortium–and Arizona biosciences–is just beginning.

Keeping it going will require the commitment of people who can keep the dream alive in the hearts and minds of Arizonans, while simultaneously keeping the process moving ever-forward. Mallery has assembled such a team: a board of talented and knowledgeable individuals, each with their own interests, but bound together by a passion for realizing the full potential of IGC and TGen.

“We don’t lack leadership here,” says Mallery. “We already have great leaders for Arizona, Maricopa County, Phoenix, and our universities. We need to support them.”

There is plenty of work to go around. Beyond the establishment of IGC and TGen lies the greater vision of building Arizona’s genomics enterprise; for that, much more than a flagship organization is required: Such a vision requires the support of the Arizona voter, the means to build a workforce, and capital to power it all.

“We have so much more to do, so much more to learn. But we are making a good start here in Arizona by building Phoenix Bioscience Center, the new home of IGC and TGen.”

In October, IGC will gather together a host of internationally renowned scientists at Biofiunding Summit 2003. It will be the first conference of its kind, putting scientists in direct contact with venture capitalists that can finance their projects. The conference will also help to solidify a relationship between IGC and the National Foundation for Cancer Research, which recently granted $1 million to the Arizona Cancer Center.

“That’s the sequence,” Mallery explained in an Arizona Attorney interview. “You start with the science, you develop the industry and more industry is created from some of the spin-off ideas because you’ve got the capital there. So you start with IGC as the research platform. TGen is the research effort, and now we need to get our act together with capital formation.”

Mallery is in a different place physically than he was 14 years ago, when he watched the building of the performing arts center from his office window; he’s in a different place spiritually than he was four years ago, when the IGC idea was conceived at his wife’s bedside; and he is in a different place professionally than he was only a year ago. It has been a long and difficult journey, but ultimately a successful one; in the course of it, Mallery has taken a possibility and turned it into a reality, transmuting a personal nightmare into a promising vision for millions.