The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) made news earlier this month with the hiring of the Institute’s Chief Scientific and Innovation Officer – Professor Rainer Fischer from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.  As David Johnson, President of BioCrossroads and IBRI Board member noted, “This is exactly the type of world-class talent the Institute was built to attract.”

Dr. Fischer joins the IBRI after 19 years of leading the Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) at the Fraunhofer.  The IME consists of six centers in Germany, with additional centers in the United States and Chile.  The entire IME organization consists of more than 600 people.   Over his tenure, Rainer has raised more than one billion dollars in extramural funding to advance research across multiple areas of life sciences research.  In addition to his duties at the Fraunhofer, Dr. Fischer is a distinguished professor in biotechnology at Aachen University, a leading science and engineering institution and considered one of the five “Ivy League” universities in Europe.

Outside Europe, not many people are familiar with the Fraunhofer Institute.  The Frauhofer, which consists of 67 separate institutes spanning multiple areas of research, is the leading applied research institute in the world. It was created at the end of the Second World War with the mission to re-build the German economy based on science and technology emanating from universities. Many of today’s leading German companies were founded or have developed innovations that were discovered at the Fraunhofer.

The vision of the IBRI is to become the leading industry-inspired applied research institute in the discovery and development of innovative solutions to improve health, initially targeting diabetes, metabolic disease, and poor nutrition.  As a non-profit, independent research institute, the IBRI is purpose-built to be a catalyst within Indiana’s robust life sciences ecosystem.

The strength that Indiana has compared to other leading life sciences communities is the breadth of research and innovation throughout the state.  The IBRI occupies the place in the middle of one of everything you would want in a life sciences innovation community.  Whether it is in biopharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, molecular diagnostics and Roche, medical devices and cell-based treatments and Cook Medical, bio-agriculture and Dow Agrosciences, or animal health and Elanco, each of these organizations depends upon world-class collaborations as part of their respective innovation strategies.  The key is bringing together the talent necessary to pursue breakthrough discovery and to create a culture and environment that is motivated by entrepreneurship and innovation.

Two years ago, the IBRI formed a scientific advisory board (SAB) comprised of scientific leaders from each of the industry founders for the Institute – Cook, Dow, Eli Lilly, and Roche.  What makes this group special is the complementary aspects of the development process through which each one pursues the development of their respective technologies. This group is more complementary than competitive and that has enabled the IBRI to focus on investing in people and capabilities that will become platforms for basic discovery and applied research across multiple areas.

In building the IBRI, the most critical hire is the scientific leader of the Institute. Given Dr. Fischer’s track record and broad range of scientific and innovative accomplishments and the ecosystem here in Indiana, I have no doubt he is the right person to help lead the Institute to a bright future.

David Broecker is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute.

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