Jack Faris, an advertising and public-relations man with strong connections in Seattle power circles, has been hired as the president of...

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Jack Faris, an advertising and public-relations man with strong connections in Seattle power circles, has been hired as the president of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association.

Faris, who took over the trade association’s top job yesterday from the retiring Ruth Scott, is stepping in at a high-stakes moment.

The association has joined forces with Gov. Christine Gregoire to ask the Legislature to approve a statewide biotech booster plan. The plan includes a $350 million state research fund and changes to state ethics law to encourage university faculty to commercialize inventions.

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Faris said he’d also like to help change the image of what he considers a poorly understood industry.

“Boeing is more than an aerospace company in the Northwest, it’s a source of pride and part of who we are,” he said. “I’d like to help this community appreciate its potential in life sciences in the 21st century, just like it appreciated aerospace in the 20th century.”

The 58-year-old Faris comes to the association after four years as vice president of university relations at the University of Washington.

There he worked on improving the institution’s public image and forming alliances, including one with traditional rival Washington State University. He left when new UW President Mark Emmert reorganized the office.

Jack Faris

President, Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association


Previous posts:
Vice president for university relations, University of Washington 2000-2004; director of community strategies, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 1999-2000; advertising executive, worldwide Boeing account leader for 12 years, Cole & Weber, 1985-1999

Bachelor’s degree in sociology, University of Washington (1968); Ph.D. in sociology, University of Chicago (1976)

Community involvement:
Chairman of the Urban Enterprise Center; board member of Alliance for Education, Humanities Washington, Seattle Public Library Foundation, United Way of King County, IslandWood, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Before that, Faris had a short stint as director of community strategies at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also spent 14 years at Seattle-based ad agency Cole & Weber, where he led the Boeing advertising account for a dozen years.

In the early 1990s at the agency, he led teams that produced ads celebrating Boeing’s 75th anniversary, and ones that honored U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf War.

Faris comes to the job highly recommended. He counts Bill Gates Sr., genomics pioneer Leroy Hood and former UW President Lee Huntsman as references. His network of community contacts extends to eight nonprofit boards, including United Way of King County, Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

In his new job, Faris will be paid a base salary of about $190,000, plus a performance bonus.

He will be responsible for a staff of seven, a $1 million annual budget and a membership of about 400 biotech companies, research institutions, and companies that serve biotech, like developers, law firms and accounting firms.

Bruce Montgomery, chairman of the association, said Faris impressed the search committee with his grasp of a wide range of issues at research institutions, his communications ability and his Rolodex. He beat out more than 50 candidates nationally.

Hood said he is convinced Faris is right for the job. In the past, Hood said, people who have tried to sell the industry to the public haven’t understood it well enough to make it resonate.

“Jack is all about creating a vision and bringing the community around it,” Hood said.

“What excites me is a vision of biotechnology that focuses on enabling predictive and preventive medicine. Jack could play a major role in helping people understand that.”

Before he can do that, Faris, whose doctorate is in sociology, said he has much to learn about what his member companies do.

He said he isn’t enamored with the term “biotech” because it carries intimidating connotations for some. He said he’s using terms like “biosciences” and “life sciences.”

He also wants the public to have realistic expectations for the industry as an engine of growth.

“I don’t think we’ll see a Boeing-sized company or a Microsoft-sized company,” Faris said.

“There are so many possibilities, and so much value that can come from creativity in small organizations, and from lots of them, who can all benefit from being part of an ecosystem.”

Luke Timmerman: 206-515-5644 or ltimmerman@seattletimes.com