News

Board Chair Laura Philips Makes an Impact at BTI

by | Jan 19, 2016

Laura PhilipsOn paper, chairperson Laura Philips’ background fulfills all the requirements for an ideal board chair, with experience in science, business and public policy. But more importantly, she believes in Boyce Thompson Institute’s mission, and enjoys her responsibilities and working with strong fellow board members.

“I’ve served on a number of non-profit boards and for-profit company boards as well. I have never served on a board that is as much fun, as accomplished and as dedicated as the BTI board,” she said.

In her nine years on the board, Philips, who is the president and CEO of Spheryx, Inc., has worked with BTI researchers and the senior leadership to support the institute’s growth, both internally and externally.

“Partnering with David and the senior leadership team is a wonderful experience,” said Philips. “Collaboration is such a key aspect of the culture at BTI, whether it’s among the researchers, the board members or management. That collaborative environment spills over into all aspects of these interactions.”

Philips first encountered BTI through its previous chair, Ezra Cornell, who she met while working as a Cornell faculty member. She was later recruited to the board as both a scientist and a businessperson. During her tenure on the board, she has helped BTI to develop its intellectual property management and increase its licensing activities. Her financial experience has been useful in budgeting and overseeing the endowment and pension fund.

In the future, Philips sees the institute growing in two directions: First, by increasing BTI’s outstanding reputation in national and international life sciences with President David Stern’s, leadership, including for example his work on the national Decadal Vision for Plant Science; and second, by expanding financial support for BTI by diversifying contributions from philanthropic sources.

As a scientist, Philips enjoys learning from BTI project leaders about their new discoveries. She started her career as a chemist, earning her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, and completing an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. She then served as a faculty member in the Cornell University chemistry department from 1987-93, and later received her MBA from Cornell’s Johnson School. From 1994-7, she worked in Washington D.C., filling various science and technology policy appointments, followed by several executive positions at Corning Inc., NexGenix Pharmaceuticals, and WellGen.

But Philips was interested in finding a new opportunity to make a positive impact on society and so in 2014, she partnered with David Grier, a professor of physics at New York University and together they founded Spheryx, Inc., a company that uses a novel approach to analyze the quality of suspensions of particles in a wide variety of commercial and industrial products.

“This technology has the capability of transforming the quality and safety of products across industries as diverse as semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, wastewater management and consumer products,” said Philips. “The results will be more innovation, significant cost savings and safer products.”

The desire to make an impact is also why Philips continues to volunteer on the BTI board, so that she can expand the opportunities for BTI scientists to engage in innovative research.

“I really consider it a privilege to serve on the board of BTI,” said Philips. “It’s been a very rewarding experience.”

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