Deborah E. James: PhD Director, Innovation Partnerships Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry University of Alberta

Remarkably, Deborah has garnered tens of millions of dollars over recent years to advance discovery, innovation and training in our Faculty. These successful partnerships would not have occurred without Deborah’s strategic insight and executive leadership. To enhance the business profile of our Faculty, Deborah recently led an economic impact study and creation of a report that defines the importance of our medical school to the health and wealth of Alberta. These and many other initiatives highlight Deborah’s talents as an innovative thinker, a team player and a team builder. Her keen ability to conceptualize and persuasively deliver new ideas contributes to her success at business development. Deborah gives back to the community through her commitment to raise awareness in our young generation about complex social and scientific issues; she is currently developing a book of essays aimed at achieving just that. Receipt of this award will honor Deborah’s momentous business development contributions to the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

Deborah is ‘Director of Innovation Partnerships’ for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta and is an important member of the dean’s executive team. With a unique research, healthcare and business background, Deborah is especially adept at leading the development and implementation of strategic initiatives that build capacity and excellence. As an example, working with researchers, clinicians and many other stakeholders across the province and elsewhere, Deborah was instrumental in creation of a research centre devoted to developing new diagnostics for solid organ transplantation. Under Deborah’s executive leadership, over $35 million of research funding was leveraged for the centre. Today a new diagnostic system is poised to enter clinical care. Deborah also led the Faculty’s first ever and comprehensive ‘research assessment exercise’ – an extensive review and ranking of research programs to identify areas of excellence. Recently, Deborah worked with external consultants to develop an analysis and report outlining the social and economic impact of the Faculty’s research, innovation, clinical and teaching missions. These substantial projects and others too numerous to mention, demonstrate Deborah’s ability to mobilize people and deliver outcomes. Her democratic and ‘lead-by-example’ style empowers those around her.

Deborah’s main portfolio is cultivating a robust innovation landscape for biomedical research in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, and indeed in the province. Working with research leaders and provincial organizations, she moves this portfolio forward by developing mechanisms for increased research funding and efforts to create scientific platforms necessary for translational science. Deborah has a unique ability to ‘think outside of the box’ and to provide an entrepreneurial perspective to the more traditional academic stance. Deborah sees the interconnectedness of complex issues and conceptualizes the opportunities that are inherent in such. She brings innovative ideas to the table with respect to ways the Faculty can increase its profile and its research and ‘IP’ revenues.  These include mechanisms to align programs and leverage funding, ways to capture and communicate social and economic value, and engagement of stakeholders to create novel partnerships. Deborah routinely brings a refreshing and robust business perspective to all initiatives.


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