Leah Cowen appointed Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Toronto

Professor Lea Cowen was appointed Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Toronto.

A leading expert on fungal infectious diseases, Cowen holds the position after having served as the University of Toronto’s Senior Associate Vice President, Research, since March – a role that has seen her work with heads of academic divisions and the University of Toronto Research Advisory Board to advance research excellence and impact.

In his new role, Cowen will lead, among other things, the University of Toronto’s globally recognized strategic research mission, foster research collaboration and partnerships, and champion equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. in research and innovation.

She will serve for a term that begins January 1, 2022 and ends June 30, 2026.

“It is truly an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to lead such an incredible research community at the University of Toronto, with such diversity and scale of excellence and impact,” said Cowen.

She added her stint as Associate Vice President, research exposed her to the wide range of research at the university.

“This role was a great opportunity to learn more about what is happening across all faculties, campuses and divisions – and to get a feel for the different cultures, communities and research contexts across the university,” said Cowen. “It really allowed me to understand the opportunities and challenges to enable continued excellence and impact in our research ecosystem. “

Cowen to succeed university professor Ted sargent, who is stepping down as vice president on Dec.31 to take a new role at Northwestern University after a transition period that begins in early 2022.

President Meric Gertler said Cowen was selected for the post following “extensive international research” led by the advisory committee on the Vice President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, which he chaired.

“Professor Cowen has an exceptional track record of interdisciplinary scholarship, high impact research and teaching excellence, as well as a proven track record in knowledge translation and entrepreneurship,” he said. he declares.

“We look forward to Professor Cowen joining the Vice Presidency team. “

Cowen, Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at Temerty School of Medicine, joined the University of Toronto as a faculty member in 2007, after receiving her PhD from the University of Toronto and a diploma undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia. She eventually achieved the rank of Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics in 2016.

His lab studies how fungal pathogens, which infect billions of people and kill more than 1.5 million people each year, acquire resistance to drugs and cause disease. His research program uses an interdisciplinary approach to address the need for new life-saving antifungal drugs.

Cowen holds a Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Diseases and is Co-Director of the CIFAR Program “Fungal Region: Threats and Opportunities”.

She is also the co-founder and Scientific Director of Bright Angel Therapeutics, a preclinical biotechnology company that focuses on the development of new therapies to treat fungal infections.

Cowen says she looks forward to taking on the stewardship of the University of Toronto’s research and innovation ecosystem and says her top priorities will include:

  • Recruit the world’s best and brightest academics
  • Enable a culture of inclusive excellence and high impact interdisciplinary research and collaboration
  • Increase the university’s research funding from a rich array of national and international sources
  • Increase the impact of the University of Toronto’s research enterprise by mobilizing knowledge to “truly meet the great challenges of our time”

She says the response of University of Toronto researchers to one pressing challenge in particular – the COVID-19 pandemic – is a testament to the skill and creativity of the University of Toronto’s research apparatus.

“What we’ve seen in our college community is an exceptional ability to pivot,” said Cowen. “People have transformed their research programs to address this critical health crisis, and we’ve seen a major increase in the level of collaboration and partnership, with people working collectively towards a common goal. “

“There has been tremendous engagement and recognition that we need really great and diverse spirits at the table with different types of skills to solve such a big challenge. “

Cowen hailed Sargent, his predecessor as vice president, as a “remarkable scholar and inspiring academic leader” who leaves an indelible mark on the university.

“Ted Sargent has had a phenomenal impact and is leaving a remarkable legacy,” said Cowen. “I had the pleasure of learning from him … and of understanding how the objectives and strategic plans he set for himself were not his alone, but rather a collective reflection of the priorities of our community in the sense of large.

“What he did was create community and mobilize towards a collective goal, using an inclusive excellence approach to ensure that we work together in a centralized manner to support and enable our divisions, and collaborate. to achieve something that is much greater than the sum of the parts. “

While Sargent moves to Northwestern, he will continue to maintain a significant research presence in Toronto, allowing him to maintain his long-standing affiliation with the University of Toronto and supervise graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

For his part, Sargent said he was delighted to see Cowen take on the role of Vice President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives.

“Professor Cowen is a world-renowned scholar with an exceptional leadership record at the University of Toronto. She is an accomplished entrepreneur and renowned member of the global research community – for example, through her leadership of a leading CIFAR program, ”said Sargent. .

“His in-depth knowledge of the research, innovation and strategic initiatives portfolio – combined with his passionate commitment to the University of Toronto, its academics, staff and students – perfectly equips him to continue his remarkable success and success. impact as an academic leader. “

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