Usha R. Balakrishnan
Usha R. Balakrishnan is the President of CarthaGlobal Ventures, a strategic advisory services firm she established in 2009. As a collaborative entrepreneur, Usha is passionate about inducing creativity and innovation through multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral alliances for new product, program, or skills development. Since 2002, her professional work has been driven by her interests in linking with others to test and implement human-centered managerial approaches at the intersections of science/research translation, the law, philanthropy, and the creation of new public-private partnerships and enterprises in a globalized society.
In 2006, Usha founded CARTHA, a 501c3 non-profit organization (www.cartha.org) for which she continues to volunteer as President, CEO & Board Chair. CARTHA (“doer” in Sanskrit) is dedicated to cultivating Collaborative Doers—bridging professionals who leverage academic-practitioner partnerships to enhance the positive impact of technological and social innovations. With the help of a growing network of volunteers—scientists, researchers, writers, entrepreneurs, and filmmakers from 11 countries in 5 continents—Usha has organized thought leadership dialogues focused on Academic-Public-Private Technology Transfer Partnerships, Global Health, Sustainability and Social Responsibility. CARTHA’s programming is based on the comprehensive C2G2SM framework: Building Collaborative Competence (C2) within Multisector Partnerships for Global Good (G2). Through its Fellows program, CARTHA inspires younger generations of academics and practitioners, introducing them into the work of Collaborative Doers. The next phase under planning is the launch of a new professional society of Collaborative Doers.
As founder of Technology Managers for Global Health (tmgh.org) and as a grantee of the Rockefeller Foundation (2004-2006), the Kauffman Foundation (2005-2006), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2006), she energized and mobilized volunteers to share cross-sector perspectives that promote the development of academic innovations that help address needs of poorer populations in developing countries. Usha has delivered invited presentations on campuses and conferences in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Italy, Brazil, and India.
Prior to her entrepreneurial journeys, Usha had a long and successful career in academic administration, working for over 15 years at the University of Iowa directing corporate partnerships and economic development-related outreach efforts, and managing inventions, patent licensing, and technology transfer functions. Cultivating and managing a large and diverse patent portfolio, she established key licensing programs at the University of Iowa Research Foundation (UIRF), negotiated agreements with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and advised small business owners and high-technology entrepreneurs. Usha’s early management leadership in establishing a large, non-exclusive licensing program for the CMV promoter patents resulted in UIRF’s most lucrative royalty-earning patent. As director of the Office of Corporate Partnerships—reporting to the University President and Vice President for Research & External Relations—Usha conceptualized and successfully launched a series of eclectic initiatives in collaboration with University faculty, staff, and students; and government, non-profit, and industry officials. During her term as a gubernatorial appointee to the Iowa Economic Development Board, Usha was instrumental in the signing of the Iowa-Andhra Pradesh (India) Memorandum of Cooperation in Biotechnology in 2003 by then-Iowa Governor Thomas J. Vilsack. With a team of social scientists and historians, she co-organized the first-ever bilateral symposium on the “Culture of Innovation in Science & Technology” (held at the University of Hyderabad in 2006) which received grant support from the AstraZeneca Research Foundation and the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum.
Usha continues to serve on numerous civic boards and committees. She currently serves on the Community Foundations Leadership Team for the Council on Foundations. She is on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Johnson County (Iowa), chairing its Resource Committee. She recently concluded her three-year term on the Committee on Scientific Freedom & Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a co-founder of the Iowa City Chapter of Café Scientifique, serves on the Program Committee of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, and is an active Rotarian.
Usha received her BCom from Bombay University and her MBA from the University of Iowa. Usha grew up in New Delhi and Mumbai. She has lived in the US since 1985. She currently resides in Iowa City with husband Ramji, Professor of Accounting at the University of Iowa. They have two children: Vasu, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University; and Uma, a ninth-grader.