The modern university must transform itself if it is to remain relevant, fulfill its responsibilities in research and teaching, and assume an expanded role in enriching the economic, social and cultural health of the community.

Only a few institutions have embraced the mandate for this fundamental transformation and recognized the scale of organizational change and funding needed to support vanguard research on problems that will be solved only by large-scale interdisciplinary efforts. ASU is among a small cadre of institutions embarking on these reforms. Our determination in this regard is exemplified by ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of a New American University: a new model for the American research university that serves to create an institution committed to excellence, access and impact. ASU measures itself not by those it excludes, but by those it includes and how they succeed. ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good; and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

To succeed in the global economy, Arizona must better educate its work force, attract more investment, expand industrial growth, and further new knowledge in critical areas to differentiate Arizona amongst the ranks of its national peers and international competitors.

In 2000, a twenty-year, six-tenths of a cent sales tax increase, authorized by passage of Proposition 301, created the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF). This substantial investment in higher education has provided essential support and expansion of the Arizona University System’s (Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona) research infrastructure.

ASU made the considered decision to invest the bulk of its TRIF allocation in bioscience and related technology areas through the formation of the Biodesign Institute. In 2002, ASU made a strategic commitment to establish the Biodesign Institute as a flagship initiative to advance its scientific research and development capabilities. Research competitiveness would be augmented in a way that would not simply replicate what other top research universities had done, but rather, set up a new gold standard for the American research university.

This ambitious goal required a significant departure from the traditional model of individual investigator-initiated research and placed an atypical, goal-oriented responsibility on Biodesign to predict the trajectory of bioscience advances and establish large convergent scientific programs in spaces not occupied by peers. This leapfrog strategy was seen as essential in establishing a globally competitive biosciences industry cluster in Arizona.