LOS ANGELES, December 3, 2019 – The Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC (“Ellison Institute”) is pleased to announce today the appointment of Anna Barker, Ph.D., as its chief strategy officer, effective immediately.
With her extensive transdisciplinary training and research leadership and management experience, Barker will extend her track record of bringing disciplines together and forming global alliances. By building networks of leading experts in medicine, science and engineering, Barker will help the Ellison Institute advance scientific discoveries and innovations that solve complex problems in cancer and other diseases.
“It is a privilege to have Dr. Barker join our team at the Institute. The tremendous work and impact she has made in developing large-scale strategic programs focused on interdisciplinary science and transformative medicine is fundamental to how we approach the treatment of cancer differently,” said Dr. David B. Agus, founding director and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Convergent science is the cornerstone of the Ellison Institute, and Dr. Barker’s ability to bring together some of the best and brightest minds to advance precision medicine will be an incredible asset to the work we accomplish here.”
The Ellison Institute combines transdisciplinary research with the prevention and treatment of cancer. Located in a new state-of-the-art building in West Los Angeles, the Ellison Institute is slated to open early next year. The Institute is a new paradigm in cancer research, treatment and wellness education—where patients, researchers, physicians and scientists from around the world can work together in a collaborative environment.
Previously, Barker served as the principal deputy director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and deputy director for strategic scientific initiatives. In these roles she led the development of foundational platforms and national programs to support the emerging concept of precision medicine. During her tenure at the NCI, she collaboratively planned and implemented a number of strategic convergence programs that emphasized innovation, networks of global institutions, team science and publicly available data.
Initiatives and programs under Barker’s leadership include: The Cancer Genome Atlas co-developed with the National Human Genome Research Institute the Biospecimens Research Network; the NCI Clinical Proteomics Technology in Cancer Initiative; the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer Program; and the Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers Program (which connects physicists, mathematicians, engineers and cancer scientists dedicated to developing a fundamental understanding of cancer), among several others. Additionally, Barker collaborated with the leadership of the FDA and was founding co-chair of the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force, the Cancer Steering Committee of the Foundation for the NIH Biomarker Consortium and she led the NCI’s international programs.
“It was an extraordinary opportunity to work with Dr. Barker to successfully implement these innovative programs—and to realize a decade later how they have transformed cancer research,” said Dr. Jerry Lee, chief scientific and innovation officer of the Ellison Institute, who had served as Barker’s deputy director at the NCI. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her, and Dr. Agus, to realize the vision of the Ellison Institute.”
Most recently, Barker served as Director of Transformative Healthcare Networks, co-director of Complex Adaptive Systems -Biomedicine (CAS) and professor of practice, School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU). In these roles, she designed and implemented “knowledge network” models that address complex diseases such as cancer as complex adaptive systems. These systems approaches have been employed to create innovative solutions in areas such as biomarker discovery and development, new clinical trial designs, and the roles of big data and artificial intelligence in precision medicine. As a result of her efforts, she led the development of the biomarker and clinical trials sections of the 21 Century Cures Act. Barker will maintain a courtesy appointment as a distinguished visiting fellow at ASU in Complex Adaptive Systems.
“It is an honor to join Dr. Agus and the Ellison Institute team. The Institute is uniquely positioned to achieve the convergence of the biomedical and physical sciences in ways that promises to transform our understanding of cancer and accelerate the advances we achieve in research laboratories to improve the lives of patients,” said Barker. “It’s long overdue that we begin to view and manage complex diseases such as cancer as complex adaptive systems – and in doing so the Ellison Institute will deliver a new model of precision therapy and prevention that can be “transformative” for all patients – what a remarkably exciting value proposition.”
Barker also spent several years at Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit transdisciplinary research and development organization where she started as a research scientist and subsequently progressed to several senior executive roles. Over the course of her career, she has received a number of awards for her contributions to cancer research, and for her work with cancer patients, professional and advocacy organizations and the ongoing national effort to prevent and cure cancer. Barker received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Ohio State University where she studied chemistry, immunology and microbiology.
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