Executive Director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation Retires

Epicenter tapped to lead local life sciences innovation planning and execution

Memphis Bioworks Foundation today announced that after nearly 18 years as its president and executive director, Steve Bares, PhD, has stepped down and retired from the Bioworks leadership role, which he has served since the organization’s creation in September 2001. During his tenure, the organization created numerous initiatives, programs and organizations that have firmly established Memphis as a premier community for entrepreneurship and business development in the life sciences industry.

Bares’ retirement had been in the works for more than a month and awaited various board approvals to ensure seamless and successful transitions of initiatives and programs in which he has played a leadership role. He will remain Board Chairman of the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE).

“The accomplishments of Bioworks under the leadership of Steve are commendable, and the Memphis life sciences community and entrepreneurial community overall have benefitted as a result of his work,” said Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde, III, Chairman of the Bioworks Foundation Board. “Many of the initiatives of Bioworks were brought to a state of financial independence under Bioworks and then spun off, creating a lasting legacy. We are pleased that Steve will continue as MASE Board Chairman, and we are working to help ensure that any transition of various programs within and outside of Bioworks is successful to benefit the forward progress of life science entrepreneurship in Memphis.”

“I would like to thank Pitt for the trust and confidence he has placed in me over the last 18 years,” said Bares. “Pitt, all the donors, the Bioworks board and the Bioworks team have all made this a productive, rewarding and enjoyable position to hold. I am very proud of our work. The time, however, after 18 years has come where I need to step away from the ongoing pressures and time commitments of the Bioworks leadership. I do so knowing that the life sciences entrepreneurial initiatives in Memphis, both within Bioworks and within other not-for profit, hospital and corporate organizations, are strong and under the guidance of excellent leadership.”

Over the last year, Epicenter, the region’s entrepreneurship hub, has convened collaborative planning sessions with stakeholders, including Memphis Bioworks and subsidiaries, as well as the Hyde Family Foundation, with the goal of developing a collaborative strategy to further elevate and grow the regional life sciences innovation economy. With Dr. Bares’ retirement, Memphis Bioworks Board Chairman Hyde has tapped Epicenter to continue to lead the evaluation of current and new industry opportunities and partnerships to maximize local economic growth.

As part of the evaluation, Epicenter is working with long-time Bioworks CFO Brandon Wellford, who has assumed the role as Executive Director, to transition organizational leadership of Bioworks ZeroTo510 program to Epicenter, in order to more closely align the organizations with the broader tech and capital resources in the ecosystem.

“Clearly, the work that the Memphis Bioworks team has accomplished over the last 18 years has set the foundation for the life science ecosystem that exists today,” said Leslie Lynn Smith, president and CEO, Epicenter. “Ecosystems naturally evolve, and as Dr. Bares retires, Epicenter and our partners are working together to ensure medical and health technology companies continue to grow and thrive here in the Memphis region.”

During Bares’ tenure, Bioworks has had a measurable impact on the Memphis community, including initiatives and programs that were created to fill a need, incubated, and then spun out into independent, sustainable organizations. Highlights of these accomplishments include:

  • More than 1,000 jobs created since 2007, and nearly 400 medical device, life science, technology and agriculture entrepreneurs served.
  • The formation and continued operation of Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE), the first STEM Charter School in the state of Tennessee. More than 400 STEM students have graduated from MASE, which is currently one the 13 SCS Reward schools (top 5%) in grades 6-12.
  • The formation of the ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator program, now in its eighth year and recognized for four straight years as one of the top 25 accelerator programs in the country by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. More than 100 companies have participated in the Bioworks network of services, accelerators programs, pre-clinical and investment services.
  • Led the formation of Innova, now one of the nation’s most respected seed- and early-stage venture funds, which has invested more than $60M in startup companies, attracting more than $70M in external capital.
  • In partnership with the Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Circle, formed Epicenter as the hub of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, which spun off as an independent organization in 2017.
  • Partnered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to form AgLaunch and its various accelerator, incubator, farmer network and ag innovation programs and initiatives. AgLaunch was spun off as an independent organization in 2018.

About Memphis Bioworks Foundation:
Memphis Bioworks is the Mid-South’s go-to organization for creating companies, jobs and investments in the Life Sciences; working with entrepreneurs, companies, universities, researchers, investors and governments to help take ideas from concept to market. A visionary community leader, Memphis Bioworks has a well-established record of sparking new levels of economic vitality by investing in entrepreneurs, building state-of-the-art labs and facilities, incubating companies, and training the next generation of workers. ZeroTo510 was launched as a program of Bioworks in 2012. For more information, visit www.memphisbioworks.org.

About Epicenter:
Epicenter exists to connect, support, and expand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the greater Memphis area. We aim to serve entrepreneurs, creators, and organizations who are committed to helping businesses thrive in our city, and we are committed to building a vibrant, inclusive economy through entrepreneurship. For more information, visit www.epicentermemphis.org.