DKU Advisory Board reunites online | Duke Kunshan University

DKU Advisory Board reunites online

May 6, 2021

The Duke Kunshan University Advisory Board held its annual meeting online on April 15, reuniting the university's "think tank" after the cancellation of last year’s meeting, which was replaced by individual zoom calls between members.

Moderating the meeting, Richard Wagoner, chairman of the advisory board, thanked all the attendees in different time zones for their participation, and introduced three new board members who were attending the meeting for the first time - Doug Baker, executive chairman of the board of directors at Ecolab Inc., James Ding, managing director of GSR Ventures, and Michael Yu, co-founder and CEO of Innovent Biologics.

Youmei Feng, DKU’s chancellor, thanked the board members for their effective support and enthusiasm, and gave a brief report on the university’s recent progress and milestones. During the past two years, “the uniqueness of DKU, cultivating future-oriented and innovative talent with a global outlook, has gained increasing attention regionally, nationally and around the world,” she said. While responding to the pandemic, DKU has also maintained steady progress in student development, curriculum enhancement, faculty recruitment and campus construction, she added.

In the near future, DKU will do its best to smooth the graduation process of its first batch of undergraduate students, said Feng, while there remain long term ambitions to intensify efforts to enhance research capacity, and build additional international platforms for science and technology innovation, and think tanks. She invited board members to visit the campus once pandemic controls are eased and to continue providing DKU with valuable suggestions and support.

Vincent Price, president of Duke University, acknowledged the close collaboration between Duke and DKU on teaching and research projects, especially when facing the complexities and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic together.

"We need to be realistic about geopolitical challenges but continue to be optimistic that the work of education, research and services that characterize DKU will be valued,” he said.

“That’s the primary goal of Duke’s efforts in Kunshan - to deepen our relationships after recognizing there are very few global problems whose solutions will not require close U.S.-China cooperation.”

On the academic front, Scott MacEachern, vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Xin Li, dean of graduate studies, elaborated on the strategic plan to further develop DKU’s unique undergraduate curriculum, masters’ programs and research agenda, providing board members with information on what DKU has to offer and what it needs to grow “from good to great” in each area.

Board members were excited about the progress that DKU has made so far. David Rubenstein, Daniel Tsai and Natalie Lichtenstein, among other members, asked detailed questions about the return to campus of international students, the future of graduate programs and the post-graduation plans of the first undergraduate class.

Advisory Board members were divided into four groups during a breakout session and focused on how to rally support for DKU in the post-pandemic era. Expanding the ecosystem for DKU was one of the key concerns of board members.

Yang Yuanqing proposed inviting more industry leaders from different fields to join the advisory board in order to give it a richer and more diverse background. Zhang Yichen expressed his willingness to introduce DKU to a new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs as an avenue for helping the institution realize its full potential. From the perspective of communications, James Ding suggested that the university should promote its role as a "bridge" to a broader audience, in order to attract quality students and faculty.

Addressing how DKU can utilize its academic resources for a unique value proposition and strategic development, Doug Baker and Mingkang Liu suggested the university could seek more opportunities to collaborate with governments and the private sector in environmental protection and sustainable development, as climate change has become a huge global challenge.

Zhang Xingsheng suggested DKU position itself as a global university to meet the complexity of the geopolitical context. It has the obligation to not only cultivate great talent with global competence, but also serve as a platform to promote exchange and cooperation with other countries to jointly address global issues and challenges, Zhang said.

At the end of the meeting, Wendy Kuran, associate vice president for development at Duke University, thanked the advisory board members for their past and future support of DKU’s development by providing intellectual, career, social and financial capital. Wagoner described the online board meeting as a new experience and a successful experiment. The advisory board will combine both online and on-site approaches to maintain close communication with members in the future, in hope that the 2022 meeting be held in person.


At the 2021 Duke Kunshan University Advisory Board Annual Meeting, three new members who joined the board last year gave presentations for the first time. They included: Doug Baker, executive chairman of the board of directors at Ecolab Inc.; James Ding, managing director, GSR Ventures; and Michael Yu, co-founder and CEO of Innovent Biologics. Their addition expands the number of Duke Kunshan University Advisory Board think tank members to 32.

Doug Baker is executive chairman of the board of directors at Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions.

Ecolab grew significantly under Baker’s leadership. Through 2020, the company’s sales rose 213%, earnings per share increased by more than 318% and market capitalization jumped 775%, from $7 billion to more than $61 billion. The share price of Ecolab stock increased 690% during this period while company employee numbers grew more than 111% to 44,000. The firm also completed more than 120 acquisitions under Baker’s leadership.

In addition to his Ecolab responsibilities, Baker serves on the board of directors of Target Corporation and on the board of trustees of Mayo Clinic and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English.

James Jian Ding is a managing director at GSR Ventures, where he focuses on early-stage companies in the artificial intelligence, big data, IT-related health care, virtual reality/augmented reality and new media sectors.

Prior to joining GSR Ventures, he co-founded AsiaInfo, which played an important role in the design and construction of China's Internet infrastructure. From May 1999 to April 1, 2003, he successfully guided the company to the first NASDAQ IPO by a Chinese technology firm. He currently serves as director on the board of AsiaInfo. Prior to that he held various leadership positions at AsiaInfo including chief executive officer, chief technology officer and president. Ding is also an independent board member of Baidu.com.

He is a graduate of Peking University and earned his master’s degree in information science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

De-Chao Michael Yu is the founder, an executive director, the chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Innovent Biologics. He is responsible for the overall strategic planning and business direction of the group and management of the company. Yu received his doctoral degree in molecular genetics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai and completed his post-doctoral training at the University of California in San Francisco. He has aspired to develop and commercialize high quality biopharmaceuticals that are affordable to ordinary people.

Yu has engaged in innovative research on biopharmaceuticals for more than 20 years, inventing three new drugs and promoting their development and commercialization along the way.

He has served in a variety of roles across many committees and associations. He is a professor and Ph.D. supervisor at Sichuan University, an adjunct research professor at the Shanghai Institute of Pharmaceutical Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a visiting professor at Zhejiang University and an adjunct professor at Suzhou University. He has also been chairman of the board of the Chinese Antibody Society since 2017, a deputy director of the National Technical Committee on Biochemical Products and Testing Technology of the Standardization Administration of China since 2008 and an independent non-executive director of BabyTree Group since 2018.