Cicero to step down after decade as vice chancellor for research

Theodore J. Cicero, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research, will step down in June 2006 after a decade of leading the University’s research enterprise.

Before his appointment as the head of research for the University, Cicero served as vice chairman for research in the Department of Psychiatry, and he will return to that position next summer.

Theodore Cicero
Theodore Cicero

Cicero will spend the next year making the transition from heading the office that coordinates the research efforts of the entire University to focusing on his own research.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said he plans to appoint an advisory committee this summer to identify candidates who might succeed Cicero.

“Ted Cicero has served Washington University extraordinarily well as vice chancellor for research,” Wrighton said. “During his tenure in the position, he has significantly strengthened our research infrastructure, launched the Office of Technology Management and contributed to the development and implementation of policies governing all aspects of our research program.

“He has also been a national leader, and this community owes Ted a great debt for his remarkable service to strengthen the quality and impact of our research enterprise. I wish him all the best as he continues his distinguished career here.”

Since Cicero became vice chancellor for research in 1996, the University’s research enterprise has greatly expanded.

In fiscal year 1996, total University research funding was just more than $244 million. Since then, funding has more than doubled, with research support reaching almost $535 million in fiscal year 2004.

“I believe that growth has more to do with talented faculty than with any work on my part,” Cicero said. “But I hope our efforts have made it somewhat easier for faculty to do their research.”

He also led the successful effort to gain voluntary full accreditation from the federal government for University research with human subjects.

In the mid-1990s, Cicero managed the revamping of a decentralized and inadequate animal-care program that was impeding animal research at the University. Streamlining and improving that program culminated in full accreditation in 1996 of what many now believe is the country’s best animal-care and use program.

Another area of focus has involved technology transfer.

Cicero’s office has worked to improve the capacity to identify research with commercial potential. He built a staff better able to assist faculty in applying for patents, identifying avenues of seed capital, approaching industry about licensing discoveries and launching startup businesses.

Since Cicero became vice chancellor for research, patent applications have tripled to a total of 117 in 2004.

In addition, the number of licensing agreements negotiated between the University and private industry has tripled, and the University’s income from those agreements has grown six-fold.

Known for his consensus building, Cicero has often drawn on the faculty’s intellectual creativity.

When he was developing the University’s technology transfer policy, for example, he appointed a 26-member committee of faculty from every school at the University so the policy would address as many of the faculty’s key concerns as possible.

“When something needs to be accomplished, it is imperative to get the faculty on board,” Cicero said. “My job has been to preserve the integrity of the University’s entire research program and to insist on the highest ethical standards, while also easing the administrative burden on our investigators. Making sure everyone is on the same page has been essential to any successes we’ve enjoyed.”

Cicero came from Purdue University to Washington University in 1968 as a postdoctoral fellow in neurochemistry in the Department of Psychiatry.

In 1970, he became an assistant professor of psychiatry, eventually becoming a full professor in 1978 and a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology in 1982.

Since 1991, Cicero has also served as the associate vice chancellor for animal affairs and associate dean at the medical school.

Cicero’s research investigates the effects of drugs in the brain and has done a great deal of work testing various drugs for abuse potential.

He’s also used animal models to study drug effects on sex hormones and the role of sex steroids in brain development, opioid analgesic tolerance and physical dependence.

Those studies have led to numerous findings suggesting different drugs affect males and females differently and that sex steroids modulate these differences.

Although he’s made some exciting discoveries, Cicero said he’s ready to return to his own research

“As we saw recently with Vioxx, when drugs are approved, sometimes it’s a few years before we know about their adverse event profile including their abuse potential,” he said.

“I plan to devote a great deal of my future research to those public health aspects of drug approval and monitoring for abuse in an effort to develop risk-management strategies.”

He also added that his prior experience as chairman of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee, along with his consultation with drug companies, provide him with both perspectives, allowing him to better develop appropriate risk-benefit ratios.