Anna Barker joins ASU to lead Transformative Healthcare Networks


Anna Barker, former deputy director and deputy director for strategic scientific initiatives at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), is joining ASU as director of ASU’s Transformative Healthcare Networks, co-director of the Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative and as a professor of practice within the School of Life Sciences, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

ASU’s Transformative Healthcare Networks initiative will leverage science and technology across ASU, U.S. academic institutions, research laboratories and all sectors to provide innovative solutions to major problems in health care. These science-focused team efforts could include development of advanced technologies, disease interventions, infrastructure and more — all with the goal of leveraging U.S. capabilities and innovation to ultimately improve human health and wellness.

At the NCI, Barker developed a number of strategic programs focused on the development of knowledge networks that emphasized innovation, publically available data, team science and convergence of the biological and physical sciences. Some of the programs planned and developed under her leadership included:  The Cancer Genome Atlas, co-developed with the National Human Genome Research Institute to identify all genomic and molecular changes in cancer; the Nanotechnology Alliance for Cancer, a network dedicated to developing and applying nanotechnologies; and the Physical Sciences Oncology Centers that connects physicists, mathematicians, engineers and cancer scientists dedicated to developing a fundamental understanding of cancer.

Barker collaborated with the leadership of the FDA to create and co-chair the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force, which was designed to reduce barriers in the development cycle of cancer drugs and diagnostics. During her years at NCI, Barker also worked with research communities to develop national resources such as high quality bio-banks and bioinformatics platforms needed to support personalized medicine. 

“Dr. Barker has vast experience developing large-scale initiatives involving transdisciplinary teams of researchers,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “She will be a tremendous asset to the university as we work to improve human health through the convergence of a variety of disciplines.”

“This hire was a strategic effort by ASU to address gaps in our expertise and create new opportunities for our students and faculty,” added ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi. “We are exceedingly pleased that Dr. Barker has chosen to join us.”

Before working at NCI, Barker served in several senior executive roles at Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research and development organization. She was also co-founder and CEO of a public biotechnology company that developed therapeutic drugs and companion diagnostics to control reactive oxygen damage, and she founded a private cancer technology company.

“With a background in government, nonprofits and private industry, Dr. Barker brings a wealth of expertise to ASU,” said R. F. “Rick” Shangraw, ASU senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development. “She will collaborate with the Biodesign Institute, Health Transformation Initiative and various schools to advance ASU’s leadership in the area of healthcare transformation.”

“I am pleased to be joining ASU – truly a university that embraces innovation and is tackling some of America’s and the world’s toughest challenges in healthcare and beyond. ASU is a great institution to lead the development of new transdisciplinary and multi-institutional knowledge network models of research dedicated to solving real-world healthcare problems,” Barker said.  

Barker received her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, where she studied immunology and microbiology.