After a recent decision to refocus the Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) and shift the role of economic development elsewhere within the university, the University of Iowa has appointed a chief innovation officer to lead its research commercialization and economic development activities.
Jon Darsee, appointed on Oct. 19 after a national search, will lead Innovation and Economic Development at Iowa, which includes UI Ventures, Protostudios, the UI Research Park, the Office of Corporate Engagement, and MADE. Darsee reports to the vice president for external relations and will focus on strengthening the UI’s role in enhancing the state’s economy.
“Economic development is a natural outgrowth of research but requires different tools and skills,” says UI President J. Bruce Harreld. “This realignment will allow us to better utilize the expansive technology and innovation capabilities that have been built up in recent years to move the university’s research from ideas to impact.”
After the departure of Vice President for Research and Economic Development Daniel Reed in October 2017, the university—led by a search committee of broad campus representation—hosted two open forums to gather feedback on the department’s structure. The resulting decision was to return the department to its roots, emphasizing the urgency of finding fresh and innovative ways to support research and scholarship in a rapidly shifting academic and federal landscape.
Darsee has worked as a part-time economic development consultant for the UI for the past year. He graduated from the UI in 1982 and later worked in medical device development and health care services, working for both medtech startups and firms with global presences.
Jon Darsee is an Iowa native and played on the Hawkeyes’ 1980 Final Four men’s basketball team. He recently returned to Iowa City with his wife, Polly, and is a frequent contributor to The Des Moines Register.
Darsee most recently worked for iRhythm Technologies, a company that develops digital bio-sensing technology and cloud-based data analytics to diagnose heart arrhythmias. He joined the San Francisco–based iRhythm when it was a startup in 2007 coming out of the Stanford University’s renowned Byers Center for Bio Design technology incubator. He retired from iRhythm in 2017 after helping build it into a 600-employee company with $100 million in annual revenue, and creating and executing the reimbursement strategy that was pivotal to the firm’s successful IPO in 2016. He recently returned to Iowa City with his wife, Polly.
Darsee currently consults on reimbursement strategy with iRhythm. He also consults with Brandon Capital; Global Kinetics Corp.; and Oxford Sciences Innovation, a $600 million private equity firm created to fund Oxford University startup companies.
“Jon has experience building and managing startups from all business angles, from sales and marketing to product development, from raising venture capital to going through an IPO, and he has an entrepreneur’s drive and desire,” says Harreld. “We’re fortunate he decided to return to Iowa to give something back to his alma mater and his home state. We look forward to his leadership.”
With the realignment, the responsibilities of OVPR will focus on facilitating and fostering excellence in research, scholarship, and creative activities; strengthening relationships with the public, private agencies, and corporations that provide support for research and scholarly endeavors; enhancing relationships with community partners; assuring the integrity of the research enterprise; and overseeing the formulation and implementation of research-specific policies related to regulatory compliance and intellectual property management.
“Our vice president for research will focus on developing innovative ways to support faculty in their discovery efforts and developing equally robust approaches for fueling innovation,” says Harreld.
John Keller, interim vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College, says the UI Research Foundation will remain in OVPR and that the organization will continue to be an integral part of the UI’s “benchtop-to-bedside” pipeline of tech transfer, intellectual property development, and commercialization. He says that having a more focused portfolio of assets and responsibilities will allow OVPR to focus more energy and creativity on supporting and accelerating research, scholarship, and discovery.
“As always, we’ll continue to help investigators secure meaningful funding, provide safe and well-resourced spaces to work, and look for ways to expand opportunities for faculty and staff across disciplines to innovate and collaborate on ‘big idea’ research and scholarship,” Keller says.
The search for a new permanent vice president for research is underway.
Darsee’s annual salary will be $238,500.