RANDAL CHARLTON:
 
RANDAL CHARLTON




 
 
 
 
 
Director of TechTown, the Wayne State University (WSU) research and technology park in Detroit, since 2007. He has secured a $1.5 million grant from the Kresge Foundation to complete the rehabilitation of the main TechTown incubator building, TechOne, a former Chevrolet engineering building. He has also secured other grants and federal earmarks to support construction and business development programs. In 2000, Charlton co-founded Asterand, a supplier of human tissue for drug discovery and development, that has since become TechTown's anchor tenant. With an investment of less than $11.6 million, Asterand has established a global repository containing thousands of samples from cooperating hospitals on four continents. Its revenue increased from $100,000 in 2001 to $18 million in 2007. Charlton won three national awards in Britain for technical journalism and at the age of 23 was voted Britain's best agricultural journalist. In his late 20s he became interested in the challenges of commercializing new technologies and switched to a business career. One of his startups, FarmKey, Ltd., specialized in finding new ways to grow food in desert climates. FarmKey's accomplishments included a multimillion-dollar plan backed by the British government to build an agricultural research station at Alexandria University in Egypt. Charlton was also recognized for his work in the “greening of Saudi Arabia” in the 1980s. He pioneered the use of embryo transfer and artificial insemination as a way to introduce new, more productive breeds of cattle to many countries. This work led to his election as the first chairman of a national cattle organization. Other accomplishments include his co-founding of Countrywide Communications, one of the most successful food and agriculture public relations companies in the world. He has written three books, contributed to numerous publications, and remains interested in writing and broadcasting as a way to introduce new technology to wider audiences. Charlton served MichBio, the Michigan Life Sciences Industry Association, as director for three years and as chairman for three years. In 2007, his work with Asterand won him the Heimlich Award for accomplishments in medical technology. In the same year he was elected special assistant and economic advisor to WSU's president. He currently serves as WSU's entrepreneur in residence and was elected chairman of the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences board of visitors in 2008, the same year he was named New Enterprise Forum's entrepreneur of the year. He received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of London.


WHERE BORN: "London, England."

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: "One of the most influential is Dr. Alan Walton, founder of Oxford Bioscience Partners, the largest venture capital fund focused on life science funds in the United States, if not the world. He's retired now but when I first came to America, he was the CEO of a company called University Genetics. He persuaded me to work for him on a consultancy basis for a few weeks."

LAST BOOK READ: "A comic book I read yesterday – The Stuff of Life. I recommend it to anybody. It explains human biology in ways that are easily understandable. Everything from the human genome to finding cures for disease – really complex stuff explained in comic book format."

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: "Natural optimist, butterfly mind, I've been accused of being a jack of all trades and a master of none."

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: "I'm 69 now, and I'm actually right on the front line of everything that's exciting. As director of TechTown, I'm about developing new jobs in the global economy. It doesn't get much more exciting. A structure that was once a building for the auto industry now contains over 73 technology companies that will drive Detroit in a new direction. A recent First Friday networking event had over 250 people there networking. It's exciting to come to work in the morning and hard to leave in the evening. "

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: "I don't have one. Most technology is pretty challenging. At one time or another, I've threatened to throw my computer, my phone, and various other tech gadgets out the nearest window. A lot of technology is quite frustrating, but it's a function of the generation I've come from. But I do love the Internet. It's now my source for information around the world."

FAVORITE PLACE: "Detroit."

FAVORITE HOBBIES: "I like drawing – pencils and crayons. That's my principal hobby. I enjoy drawing people. Also, gardening for vegetables."

FAVORITE FOOD: "The potato because it can be cooked in so many ways, but my favorite indulgence is Greek yogurt."

MY HIDDEN TALENT: "I've written a book about women's soccer."

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: "As someone who other people found mildly amusing and interesting to work with."