James S. Economou to Step Down as Vice Chancellor for Research

October 26, 2015

UCLA Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

To: Vice Chancellors, Deans, Directors, Chief Administrative Officers, and all Faculty

Dear Colleagues:

Having completed a five-year term as vice chancellor for research, James Steven Economou has decided to return to the faculty full time on December 31, 2015.

Since becoming vice chancellor in 2010, Dr. Economou has worked tirelessly to support and strengthen UCLA’s research enterprise. He has amassed an impressive record of accomplishment.

Shortly after taking office, Dr. Economou, working closely with deans and faculty, oversaw the preparation of a proposal for a Clinical and Translational Science Award, which resulted in $81.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Throughout his tenure, UCLA has remained among the world’s top universities based on the amount of extramural funding, averaging approximately $1 billion per year despite the overall declines in federal research funding.

The Grand Challenges initiative is one of Dr. Economou’s legacies. This ambitious effort connects faculty, students and supporters from all disciplines to work together to solve critical issues. Two UCLA Grand Challenges are currently underway: Sustainable L.A., which launched in 2013, and the Depression Grand Challenge, which will be announced to the public within the week. Grand Challenges enable our campus to focus our collective efforts on a common goal while highlighting UCLA’s extraordinary research capabilities and enhancing collaborations with external constituents.

A second major initiative for Dr. Economou has been cultivating a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem at UCLA. He spearheaded a process of institutional assessment and planning, approved by the UC Regents in 2013, which established the nonprofit Westwood Technology Transfer. With guidance from an independent board of directors, WTT helps protect and optimize discoveries and inventions developed through campus research and enhances their translation to the marketplace. WTT already is facilitating the commercialization of research in ways that benefit our campus, community and individual researchers.

Dr. Economou also has closely attended to research administration, research safety and compliance, and to fostering general research. Over the past five years, virtually every aspect of research administration has shown measurable improvements in quality and efficiency. UCLA’s new PI Portal leverages data to make the information that faculty need easily accessible. Protections for research involving human subjects and animals are stronger than ever, and our laboratory safety policies, procedures and training programs have been further enhanced under his leadership.

Dr. Economou has leveraged internal funding mechanisms to stimulate and support diversity and transdisciplinary research throughout campus. Through newsletters and workshops, he has encouraged faculty to more competitively pursue funding. He has enhanced our research infrastructure by establishing the shared resources consortium, which is aimed at improving the efficiency and responsiveness of UCLA’s research cores. Additionally, he has spurred strategic planning for research informatics to better position the campus for future research needs.

Vice Chancellor Economou is the Beaumont Professor of Surgery and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology. He also holds joint appointments in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and the department of molecular and medical pharmacology. In addition to continuing to see patients and conduct research, he served as president of the Society of Surgical Oncology in 2011–12, was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2014 and is currently the president of the American Surgical Association.

I will soon announce the appointment of an interim vice chancellor and plans for a search for a permanent vice chancellor.

Chancellor Block and I very much appreciate Dr. Economou’s outstanding service and leadership over the past five years. The research enterprise at UCLA is far stronger today as a result of his advocacy, vision and problem-solving. Please join me in thanking him for his dedicated leadership and wishing him well as he returns to our faculty.


Scott L. Waugh
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost