Wash U Microbiologist Named Duke’s Next VP for Research & Innovation

Jennifer Lodge comes from a similar position; will keep her lab

Jennifer Lodge, PhD, Vice President for Duke's Office for Research and Innovation
Jennifer Lodge, PhD, Vice President for Duke's Office for Research and Innovation

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University has named Jennifer Lodge, PhD, as its new Vice President for Research and Innovation, overseeing Duke’s $1.2 billion annual research portfolio. She begins the new role in January.

Lodge comes to Duke from Washington University in St. Louis where, as Vice Chancellor for Research and Senior Associate Dean for Research for the School of Medicine, she has been the university’s senior research official for the last seven years. She’s responsible for WUSTL’s research development, ethics, education, compliance and research administration systems, and has earned a reputation for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship and translating discoveries to benefit society. 

“This is a spectacular opportunity because of the strength of the different schools and the many distinct disciplines at Duke,” Lodge said. “My philosophy has always been about enabling the rapid advancement of the creative research being done by faculty, staff and trainees, while keeping research ethics high.”

“I am thrilled to welcome Jenny Lodge to our campus,” said Duke President Vincent Price. “At this exciting moment for research at Duke — when we are making new investments in science and technology, research translation and commercialization, and regional and national leadership — Jenny brings the talent and vision to help guide our core missions of discovery and innovation into the next century.”

Lodge’s own research on the human pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1997 and she has had as many as three prestigious R01 grants at one time. Her lab explores the biochemical processes by which the fungus builds its cell walls with the ultimate goal of developing new antifungal therapies and vaccines. Cryptococcus is the most common fungus causing serious infections worldwide and is particularly deadly for the immune-compromised, including people with HIV/AIDS. “Duke is the center of the universe for fungal pathogenesis,” she said.

Lodge will have a faculty appointment and a lab in the School of Medicine’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology. MGM distinguished professor and chair Joseph Heitman, who has known and worked with Lodge for more than 25 years in fungal pathogenesis, says she’s a “selfless leader. She loves seeing what an administrator working behind the scenes can do to elevate the science of the institution and of individual investigators. She’s also someone who will be amazing at connecting with all of the institutions throughout the Triangle.”

“I am delighted to welcome Jenny to Duke, and look forward to working with her to advance research support and opportunities for all Duke faculty members,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “Jenny brings to Duke an impressive track record of accomplishments both as a scientist and as a research administrator, as well as an exciting vision for supporting faculty and student innovation and commercialization activities. I am grateful to search committee chair Joseph Izatt and the committee members from across the university for their diligent work on the search.”

“Dr. Lodge’s experience as a distinguished scientist in her field, combined with her leadership role overseeing the research mission at a peer university, make her uniquely positioned to excel in her new role at Duke,” said A. Eugene Washington, M.D., chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of Duke University Health System. “Duke has an impressive tradition of advancing research through discovery, innovation and collaboration, and I am confident that under Dr. Lodge’s leadership, these endeavors will reach even greater heights.”

In 2019 Duke elevated the vice provost for research, with primarily campus-side responsibilities, to a vice president with purview over both the campus and medical center research as part of the effort toward a more unified environment called One Duke. Electrical Engineer Lawrence Carin, PhD, was in the role at that time, but departed Duke in January 2021. Former Dean of Medicine R. Sanders Williams, M.D., has been acting as the interim VP since then, and has overseen a reorganization of the structure and mission of the office, acting on recommendations from a Board of Trustees study committee and campus leadership.

“Jenny will oversee a research enterprise that has reached new heights under Sandy Williams’s recent leadership, and I know that she will help us realize an even brighter future,” Price said.

Although compliance is a word with negative connotations for many faculty, “first and foremost, this office is about protecting faculty while enabling their research,” Lodge said. “There have been recent examples where faculty have had their careers derailed. If we can put structures in place that protect our faculty, I think they will see the value of that.”

Lodge said she would also enhance what Duke is already doing with technology transfer and creating startups, as well as working more with industrial partners. “This is something that many universities are appreciating: that as recipients of federal and state funds to support our research, we have an obligation to enable that research to benefit the nation. And the way that's going to happen is through translation, and getting it out into the public sector.”

Connections to downtown Durham and the regional economy also will be a part of that push, Lodge said. “I'll be looking holistically at the entire ecosystem. What does it look like now, and where are the gaps? Where are people finding those 'valleys of death' that pose significant barriers?”

Lodge is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Academy of Inventors. She is also the former chair of the Group on Research at the American Association of Medical Colleges. (AAMC). She will be moving to the area with her husband of 32 years, Marshall Michener, who is a retired scientist for the pharmaceutical industry and startups. They have two grown children.