A Maine philanthropist and tech entrepreneur is working with the University of Maine System on a new project to create a “world class” health care data analytics center in Portland, system officials said Monday.

David Roux, a Maine native and chairman of the board of trustees at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, made his fortune investing in technology companies around the globe.

“Maine appears very likely to be the home, in three years, of a world-class institute at the intersection of digital and health sciences,” Chairman Jim Erwin told the University of Maine System board of trustees, who were in Presque Isle for their regular meeting. “It is indeed a very exciting development.”

He noted that the project was “mostly an idea at this point,” but said Roux’s backing indicates there is a strong chance the project will happen.

“This has been a discussion active in the Greater Portland area for several months now,” Chancellor James Page said. “We are fortunate to be engaged as this is coming together, (and it) will be more in focus over the next year or two.”

Without providing specifics, Erwin said the institute would be located in Portland and would involve artificial intelligence and digital technology for the prevention, diagnosis, cure and management of health.

Chuck Hewett, executive vice president and strategic adviser for The Jackson Laboratory, would be the chief executive officer of the institute, Erwin said. Attempts to reach Roux and Hewett directly on Monday were not successful.

Page said he had asked the presidents of the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine, the two largest campuses, to evaluate which existing academic programs would already be a “strength” in partnering with the potential center, and which programs the system could develop and invest in to be “complementary to work in the center.”

USM President Glenn Cummings said he has met with Roux several times and toured the USM campus with him in discussing the idea.

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said he has been talking to Hewett about the project, which is still in the early stages.

“This is one of the most exciting opportunities that’s been contemplated for the city certainly during my tenure,” Jennings said. “This is potentially a game-changer for our city and our economic future.”

Jennings said the institute itself would be a boon, as would the potential for spinoff companies that might locate in the area.

“There is enormous opportunity,” Jennings said.

The trustees are scheduled to have a more detailed discussion about the project at the Nov. 18-19 meeting, to be held in Portland.

“We have every reason to believe they are moving forward,” Page said. “We are in a supporting role on this.”

Roux, who grew up in Lewiston and Yarmouth, is vice chairman of the board of directors for the National Audubon Society and a former member of the board of the Environmental Defense Fund. Roux has been an executive at several technology companies and is a co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Silver Lake Group, a private equity firm.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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