Eric Toone will serve as the new leader of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, Duke administrators announced Wednesday.
Toone, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass professor of chemistry, succeeds Kimberly Jenkins, who resigned as adviser to the president and provost for innovation and entrepreneurship in July.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship have become major priorities for Duke because they connect to the heart of education—using the creative powers of mind to invent a better world,” President Richard Brodhead said in a press release. “Our University-wide initiatives have gained speed in recent years, and with a leader as experienced and dynamic as Eric Toone, they will continue to thrive.”
On leave from the University since 2009, he has since led the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy as its principal deputy director. A government task force, ARPA-E is responsible for promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technology.
Under his purview, Toone said the initiative will develop around four foundational axes—education, research, translation and social entrepreneurship. Such efforts, he added, will facilitate the transformation of fundamental discoveries in the sciences and engineering into commercial products.
“This initiative, focused on both innovation and entrepreneurship, is a means to increase the relevance of the University and increase its impact on society,” Toone said in the release.
Toone noted that his experience with Department of Energy’s research incubator has prepared him to direct the initiative. adding that nearly half of ARPA-E funding was funneled to research conducted at the university level.
“Early-stage tech transfer is not about discovery anymore—it is about making those discoveries ready for market impact. I spent four years learning how Washington works—who funds what, who is responsible for what, how agencies work and how Congress works,” he noted. “This knowledge is important because the federal government is still the primary supporter of early stage translation—not venture capitalists. VC support typically comes later on in the process.”
Provost Peter Lange noted that Toone—who founded two medical startups, Aerie Pharmaceuticals and Vindica Pharmaceuticals—draws upon a wealth of personal experiences and accomplishments.
“The breadth of vision, with its combination of educational, research and translational ambitions and commitments to both commercial and social entrepreneurship, assure a good match both with the University’s mission and the passions and interests of our faculty and students,” Lange said.