Jennifer Barton

Executive Director, BIO5 Institute University of Arizona

By Loni Nannini

At the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute, Jennifer Barton leads a collaborative effort to impact the way we eat, treat diseases and teach students and scientists.  

“The BIO5 Institute recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, which is super exciting,” said Barton, BIO5’s executive director. “Moving forward, we are continuing with our three-part mission of bringing interdisciplinary scientists together to help advance real-world problems such as combating complex diseases like cancer, increasing wellness, creating food to feed the planet, and translating discoveries to people, while training the next generation of scientists.” 

Barton, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and a doctorate in biomedical engineering, boasts many years with McDonnell Douglas and has amassed more than 25 years in faculty and research roles at UArizona, where she holds the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Engineering. 

“Dr. Barton is an outstanding leader, and we are incredibly fortunate to have her at the helm of our BIO5 Institute,” said UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. “Her success as a biomedical engineer and her commitment to community impact, mentorship and teaching make her an ideal leader for this important institute.”

Since 2015, Barton has overseen BIO5’s five disciplines of agriculture, engineering, medicine, pharmacy and science, championing the work of 350 bioscientists, engineers, physicians and researchers, and strengthening the partnership between academia and industry.

“We are a way of bringing people together,” she said. “You may have a researcher in plant breeding and someone in cancer biology who realize they are looking at the same gene, and we help them to make connections and propel their work forward.”

“Solving problems is our first mission, but in order to do that, we need to make sure the discoveries we make don’t just stay in the lab, but get out there to help Arizonans,” Barton said.  “We partner with Tech Launch Arizona to make sure investigators have a smooth path for commercializing their discoveries and bringing them to the public. In the first 20 years at BIO5, we had 68 start-up companies.” 

Her own groundbreaking research involves the development of a miniature endoscope to facilitate early detection of ovarian cancer. 

“The most exciting part about being in the biomedical field is that you have the ability to impact people’s lives and extend not just their life span, but their health and wellness span,” Barton said. “We can help people to have better, more productive lives, not just longer lives.”

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