Tuesday, June 30, 2009


No confidence in McKinney passes

Resolution 1 passes

McIntyre's resolution passes 58-5 on a secret ballot.

Bury the past

Meanwhile, the Chancellor shows the plan for Vision 2020

Blast off!

The Eagle reports on the faculty senate poll:
"My thinking and the thinking of most of the faculty is we're very concerned about the reputation of the university," said Larry J. Reynolds, an American Literature professor who voted to support both resolutions. "Both the decision to hire Dr. Murano and the decision to [remove] her were unprofessional."

Rod Davis, a spokesman for McKinney, declined to comment.
The Faculty Senate will meet in about an hour (3:15 PM CDT) to vote on the resolutions; the poll was advisory. Regent Jim Wilson is expected to speak. Vision 1920 will report on what happens.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ad blockers pt 3

Previously:In 1993, Jack Roth's group described the adenovirus p53 vector that would become Advexin in a short paper in the journal Biotechniques. The earliest clinical trials in the gene therapy trials database with p53-carrying Adenovirus vectors started in 1995, with Jack Roth as one of the PIs. Overall, the database lists 34 US clinical trials of Adenovirus vectors carrying p53 for cancer therapy. Some of these may have involved Introgen competitors, but many were for what would become known as Advexin. A 1997 press release describes the results of one set of Phase 1 trials, and a collaboration:
Introgen Therapeutics, Inc., an Austin-based company engaged in the development of cancer therapeutics, sponsors Drs. Roth and Clayman along with 25 other clinicians and researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Introgen and RPR Gencell, the gene therapy division of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, are collaborating to develop and commercialize gene therapy products based on the p53 pathway and k-ras oncogene inhibition.
Adenovirus vectors fell under a cloud in 1999 when an Arizona teenager died during clinical trial involving adenovirus vectors. This was not a trial involving Introgen, but all ad vectors were suspect. Even improved vectors were cause for worries:
Gene therapy researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who recently reported success with the 'gutless' adenoviral vector in animals may not get to test the vector in humans.

The pharmaceutical company, Merck, which owns the licence on a technique used to produce the vector, is refusing to extend its material transfer agreement (MTA) with Baylor, saying that it does not want to be liable for any problems the vector might cause in clinical trials.
How this affected the Introgen Adenovirus projects is not clear. Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials continued, and Introgen-sponsored scientists presented safety results at meetings. In 2002, the Ad5-p53 vector was trademarked as Advexin, and Introgen was telling the world to expect an approval application in 2004 (Biodrugs 17 (3): 216-222). Also from that review:
In April 2001, Aventis Gencell and Introgen restructured their existing collaboration agreement for p53 gene therapy products. Aventis Gencell indicated that p53 research had suffered from internal competition for resources and was pulling back from its development agreement with Introgen for p53 gene therapy products.
In a 2004 review of gene therapy skepticism about the Advexin approach appeared:
Results published to date have been disappointing. Phase I trials for recurrent glioma reported only modest survival benefit and expression of adenoviral derived p53 only a short distance from the site of virus administration.115 Phase II/III trials for ovarian cancer failed to show treatment benefit with intraperitoneal administration of adenovirus expressing p53 with chemotherapy after debulking surgery.120 Finally, Swisher et al published antitumour effects associated with the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer; however, no comparable control group was described in their report.116
That last bit is harsh. The author is not just saying the results were disappointing; he's calling the quality of the studies into question.

The potbanging would get worse.

To be continued...

Faculty Senate survey

Resolution 1-1,332 responses
Agree 92.5%
Disagree 3.6%
No opinion 3.9%

Resolution 2-1337 responses
Agree 83.5%
Disagree 7.9%
No opinion 8.7%

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Former VP and TAMU CFO William Krumm has a column in today's Eagle about costs at A&M:
I read and listened with interest as the discussion of reducing "costs" at Texas A&M University hit the headlines recently. I have spent more than 30 years in higher education finance -- 22 at the University of Michigan and more than eight at Texas A&M. I am not sure the right questions are being asked.
Krumm calls for an external group to be brought in to figure out where the money is going. Interestingly, the online version omits a paragraph found in the print edition:
Then examine he costs of running the system offices and the Board of Regents. All costs must be captured and addressed, including services and hosting activities provided by the university to the system offices. Some of these costs may have to be imputed, as there is no current market price for such items as the chancellor's private box at Kyle Field and similarly provided services and activities
Vision 1920 says: let's not get carried away here.

No kidding

In the Batt:
"I talked to Morris Foster today, the chair of the Board of Regents," [SGA Chief Justice Joseph] Reed said. "His definition of shared governance is different from what the faculty think … Not everyone's going to be happy."

Ad blockers pt 2

Prof Jack Roth and David Nance formed Introgen based on an idea for using gene therapy a cure for cancer, but like all gene therapies, they needed a way to deliver the genes to cells. That's what viruses do, and Adenovirus seemed like a good choice as a delivery vehicle, not just to Introgen, but to many in the growing field of gene therapy.

Adenoviruses are a large family of DNA viruses that infect humans and animals. They are relatively easy to manipulate by genetic engineering, they're stable, and infected cells express large amounts of the delivered gene product. Unlike retroviruses and adeno-associated viruses, Adenoviruses don't integrate their DNA into the host, which makes them less likely to cause cancer as a side effect - something that has been seen in gene therapy trials with the other delivery systems. This lack of integration is a problem for gene therapies that need long-term maintenance of the delivered gene, as is the case for genetic diseases where you want to fix lots of normal cells. But for cancer, this is not a problem. You don't care if p53 is stable in the cancer cells, because you expect p53 to kill them quickly. Unstable expression in the normal cells that also get infected is also OK; they already have their own good copies of p53.

Normal adenoviruses cause disease, but most adenoviral disease is relatively mild and most humans have already been exposed to adenoviruses. The disease-causing parts of the adenovirus can be removed by genetic engineering, and the adenoviruses can even be crippled so that they can only grow in the special cells in the lab. All these reasons led people to think that adenovirus vectors (gene delivery systems) would be safe and efficient - at least compared to the available alternatives.

So, Introgen had their anticancer magic bullet (p53) and their delivery system (modified adenovirus) back in the mid 1990s. By 1994, Introgen was starting Phase I clinical trials. The idea of p53-adenovirus anticancer gene therapy was so obviously good, the Chinese stole it! Science magazine wrote in 2006:
Introgen Therapeutics in Austin, Texas, for example, claims that SiBiono's Gendicine is similar to its own experimental product, a recombinant adenovirus containing the human p53 gene (rAd-p53).

Wei-Wei Zhang, president and CEO of San Diego-based GenWay Biotech, published the first paper on rAd-p53 while working at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in 1994. He holds U.S. patents on the viral construct and related processes. M. D. Anderson negotiated a license with Introgen, which has spent more than $70 million to develop a product based on Zhang's rAd-p53, trademarked Advexin. It has been in clinical trials since 1994. The company's ongoing phase III trial using Advexin to treat head and neck cancer is under review for "accelerated approval" by FDA.

Introgen's 106-patient phase II trial in 2005 showed a 10% "tumor response rate," defined by at least 30% reduction in tumor size, in patients who received Advexin alone. Introgen Vice President Robert Sobol says phase III trials are going well.

Meanwhile, Introgen CEO David Nance claims that Gendicine is a "derivative" of his company's product. In an August 2006 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Introgen claims that Gendicine infringes on a 1994 patent filed in China but concedes that "enforcement of patents in China is unpredictable, and we do not know if monetary damages could be recovered from SiBiono."
Gendicine beat Advexin to the punch in China, but Introgen still held the patents for the US and European markets. The silver lining was that Gendicine's Chinese approval in 2003 was another piece of evidence that Advexin would work.

To be continued...

It's not unusual

Vision 1920 got support from an unexpected source in today's Eagle:
In Washington, D.C., Claire Van Ummersen -- vice president of the American Council on Education, which serves as a coordinating board for all U.S. universities -- said she had heard of turmoil at A&M but said it didn't seem to be an "extraordinary situation."
See, it's no big deal. Nothing extraordinary about
  • Forcing out the President (who happens to be the first woman and first minority to hold the position) after a year and a half, based on a performance review that never got beyond scribbled notes.
  • System level officials cutting collaborative research deals with faculty that the President learns about in the press.
  • "There's nine people who can tell me what to do. I'll make my arguments to them. They argue, they listen and then they make a decision, and I carry it out. You want shared governance? That's shared governance."
  • Multiple faculty groups holding no confidence votes for the Chancellor
This is especially sweet for Vision 1920 because Van Ummerson specializes in "Equity, Faculty Career Flexibility, Gender, Leadership Development, Women in Higher Education".
"Texas A&M is a first-ranked institution," said Van Ummersen, who isn't associated with the university but said she had followed the situation through the Chronicle of Higher Education. "[A&M] has a good reputation throughout the country and it will, I am certain, not affect the institution's ability to find new leadership because individuals who would be interested in positions would be looking at the quality and its reputation over time, not singling out any incident that has occurred."
Translation: we can always find someone who will take the job.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 11

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 11: Attain Resource Parity with the Best Public UniversitiesAttain Resource Parity with the Cheapest Public Universities

Ad blockers

The potbangers keep bringing up Introgen (see the comments on this story in the Eagle, for example). So Vision 1920 will retell the tale of Introgen, even if it mans having to get faculty input again.

As noted in an earlier post, Mr. David Nance, formerly of Introgen, is a biotech expert who has been advising the Governor for years. His company, Introgen, was founded on the work of Dr. Jack Roth of M.D. Anderson
Advexin, which expresses the tumor-suppressing p53 gene, is the first gene therapy to succeed in a U.S. phase III clinical trial for cancer. Jack A. Roth, M.D., a professor in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, invented the therapy and co-founded Introgen Therapeutics, Inc., the company that makes Advexin.

“The p53 protein,” Dr. Roth said, “is called ‘the guardian of the genome’ because it protects against damage to the cell. We are all constantly exposed to agents such as sunlight or tobacco smoke that can cause gene mutations. When the gene is functioning normally, p53 can actually help facilitate repair of those mutations or eliminate the damaged cell.”

In most cancers, however, p53 is defective. The thinking behind the Advexin protocol was to take a normal p53 gene and put it into p53-defective tumor cells to cause apoptosis—death—of the cancer cells but not of normal cells. According to Dr. Roth, “When the p53-expressing adenovirus is injected directly into tumors, it causes the tumors to shrink or to stop growing. And in a few cases, there are very dramatic responses where the tumors disappear completely.”
If you can inject something directly into a tumor, why not just kill it directly instead of using this p53-whatsit to turn on a program that kills the cell? Here's why: Traditional cancer therapy is known as slash, burn, and poison. You cut out the cancer, but you might miss some and it comes back. Same if you burn it out with radiation. Chemotherapy poisons the cancer but it poisons everything else in the body at the same time; that's why chemo patients lose their hair, lose their appetites, and are prone to infections. Unless you can deliver the poison only to the cancer cells, what you want is something that's a poison to the cancer cell but not to the patient's normal cells... and that's how p53 is supposed to work.

Introgen was based on the idea that you could deliver p53 everywhere. When it hit a normal cell, nothing would happen because there was already normal p53 there. when it hit a cancer cell that lacked p53, the incoming p53 would detect that the cell had problems and tell it to commit suicide (apoptosis means programmed cell death).

To implement this strategy, Introgen needed a delivery system. Back when they started, the delivery system of choice was Adenovirus.

To be continued...

Brush up your Shakespeare

Letter in today's Eagle
McKinney should think on Shakespeare quote

Near the end of his address to the Faculty Senate on Monday, A&M Chancellor Mike McKinney quoted from Act 2, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Tempest ("what's past is prologue").

He seems, however, unaware of the context in which this phrase is used by the unscrupulous Antonio in his successful attempt to convince Sebastian to replicate Antonio's usurpation of Prospero's dukedom ("what's past") by attempting to murder Gonzalo (the "act" that is the "prologue") in order to seize control of Naples from his niece Claribel.


World Shakespeare Bibliography

College Station
Where have we seen this before?

Lessons in ends and means

From the minutes of the August 18, 2008 BoR meeting:
Mr. Jones called on Mr. Mark Gold, Student Body President at Texas A&M University. Mr. Gold thanked the members of the Board and the administration for allowing them to present public testimony...He said there were two main reasons that he recommended a formal search process to be considered for this position. Mr. Gold said that one of the things that make Texas A&M so special and one of the reasons he liked being a student leader at this university was because of the principle of shared governance...

Mr. Jones asked Mr. Gold if he had heard of Dr. John Koldus and if so, had he heard of his success as Vice President for Student Services. Mr. Gold responded in the affirmative. Mr. Jones asked Mr. Gold if he knew that Dr. Koldus was selected by the President and there was not a nationwide search in the selection. Mr. Gold responded in the affirmative...Mr. Gold commented that to his knowledge, Dr. Koldus was the first Vice President for Student Affairs, so to have a national search for a position that didn’t exist at the time was, to his understanding, the reason it didn’t happen. Mr. Jones said he was not concerned with the reason, but looking for the result and the result was that we had a very good Vice President for Student Services in Dr. Koldus and his wife. Mr. Gold agreed...

Mr. Jones then called on Mr. Nicholas “Nick” Petree, Memorial Student Center (MSC) President, for public testimony ... Mr. Jones asked Mr. Petree what was more important to him as a student leader – the process or the end result. Mr. Petree said that the end result in the long term is the most important thing...

Dr. McKinney stated that this process was according to the rules that exist. He asked Mr. Petree to help him understand what process they would propose that would yield a better chance of success and said that it might actually yield the same person. Mr. Petree said the nature of students was that they were greedy on this process of shared governance. Dr. McKinney asked for clarification on the term “shared governance.”...

Collaborative research

The potbangers act as if the focus on commercializing research is new. Item 6 of the CPI complaint is:
Chancellor McKinney has focused the System on commercialization of the research enterprise. The System level Office of Technology Commercialization has negotiated agreements with University faculty and companies without including the University, yet it remains the University’s responsibility for certifying compliance and managing conflicts of interest related to these agreements.
But long before Mike McKinney was Chancellor, the Regents were talking about opportunities for A&M and biotechnology. From the BoR minutes from May, 2001, we have a presentation on the Texas Life Sciences Collaborative:
Dr. Wendler said that the Texas Life Sciences Collaborative is seen as a partnership between higher education, the business community and state government to focus research and commercialization of life sciences in the areas of health, agriculture and the environment.
Walter Wendler was Dean of Architecture, and was leaving Texas to become Chancellor at SIUC. He describes how Texas has unique advantages for growth in biotech. Alas,
during the legislative session, in principle, everybody was very agreeable, but when it got down to some of the details, discussions got testy.
Not to be deterred (Aggies never quit!), the governor got together a panel to figure out what to do. Wendler continues his report to the BoR:
Dr. Wendler said the hope was to get some planning funding so that through the intersession for the next two years, it would be possible to configure the public-private venture for Texas that would be unique and exploit the very special opportunities that exist in this state for biotechnology. Dr. Wendler said that was not achieved because of the state’s budget. However, he thought the Governor had given the signal. Dr. Wendler said Ms. Armstrong has been working with Mr. David Nance, President and CEO of Introgen Therapeutics, Inc., a recently gone public biotech enterprise. Dr. Wendler stated that Mr. Nance is a very knowledgeable person in the area of biotechnology and agrees that Texas is perfectly poised right now. He said some research and commercialization help is needed.
Help was on the way for Nance and Introgen, but it would be too little, too late. More on this later.
Dr. Wendler said the Governor’s office has suggested that there would be funds available to support a significant statewide assessment study. Dr. Wendler said a lot of work as been done already, but it needs to be tried at the crucible of kind of a national view of biotechnology. He said if that can be accomplished, and the support is organized over the next two years, then in the next session, he thought Governor Perry eventually would agree to the need to invest about a billion dollars over ten years. The challenge, Dr. Wendler said, is finding funds.
Funds have been found in the Emerging Technology Fund and the Enterprise Fund. But not enough.

More on enlightened governance

12 is a sacred number in Aggieland: 12 is also the number of chapters in the Sutra of Perfect Enlightement. In chapter 7,the Buddha instructs bodhisattva Power and Virtue Unhindered:
...using the pure enlightened mind, they completely realize that the nature of mind as well as the faculties and objects are all based on illusory transformations. Then here they produce various illusions in order to remove illusion. Creating (transforming) all illusions, they enlighten the illusory multitude. From the production of illusion they are able to arouse great compassionate pliancy within.
Vision 1920 will produce the illusion of Shared Governance to transform the faculty to a state of compassionate pliancy so Power and Virtue can rule unhindered.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 10

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 10: Demand Enlightened Governance and LeadershipPut lightweights in positions of governance and leadership.

CPI votes no confidence

Communique from the CPI
To all Principal Investigators,

Based on concerns from the PI community that actions on the part of Chancellor Michael McKinney have seriously undermined the research enterprise at Texas A&M University and have drastically hurt our national and international reputation, the CPI Executive Committee drafted a Resolution of No Confidence in the Chancellor. The full text of the Resolution can be found on the CPI website:


The CPI members have passed the resolution with a vote of 27 Yes, 2 No, and 2 Abstain.

At this time, we are conducting a poll of all PIs to determine their support of this Resolution.

We note that this effort coordinated by the CPI is complementary to and supportive of any similar efforts that may be undertaken by the Faculty Senate. Moreover, since the CPI and the Faculty Senate constituencies are not identical (CPI represents people that are not represented by the senate, e.g., non-tenured research faculty, and vice versa), both efforts are needed to allow all researchers and faculty members to express their views.

The deadline for PIs to cast their votes is 12 noon on Tuesday, June 30, 2009. We have set this deadline so that results will be available before the special faculty senate meeting that will be held later that day.

Divide and conquer

Here at Vision 1920, we've always known that we could count on some of the faculty to know who is really in charge. This was circulated at the end of last week, but although it's described as an "open letter", Vision 1920 only got a copy this afternoon.
Date: June 19, 2009
To: Open Letter to the Faculty Senate
From: E. Fry, Head, Department of Physics
R. Juzaitis, Head, Department of Nuclear Engineering
M. Pishko, Head Department of Chemical Engineering
D. Russell, Head, Department of Chemistry
M. Scully, Director, Institute for Quantum Studies
Re: Common sense

Conservatively speaking TAMU is experiencing difficult times; however, there are reasons to believe that proper handling of these issues can lead to a stronger, more resilient administration/faculty working relationship. The Chancellor, BOR, students, former students, friends and faculty all aspire to similar goals, specifically quality education, preeminence in research, and an environment that fosters a high quality of life for all members of the “AGGIE family.” Such aspiration cannot be realized from combative, antagonistic dialogue between the administration, students, and faculty. We feel that the appointment of Dr. Loftin as interim President constitutes a good first step by the administration toward reconciliations with the faculty. He has a strong academic background, e.g., was an Aggie undergrad, Rice Ph.D., a successful research career and an exceptional track record as Galveston President.

Having the members of the Board of Regents take us into their confidence to explain why the previous search committee’s input was not satisfactory to them is encouraging. They care deeply about what we think and how we can work together. They also care deeply about the university, about its standards of excellence, its traditions, its students and its former students. Improved communications would enhance interaction and result in a more timely exchange of information. The recent meeting of the Chancellor with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate is another positive step forward. We thank the Chancellor for sharing his thoughts with us and encourage a continuation of such positive actions toward defining and resolving problems. We should put an end to counterproductive activities, and focus on solutions rather than problems. For example, the suggestion of faculty representation on the BOR is a positive suggestion.

We also note that Chancellor McKinney has been an excellent friend to the University in many ways, not the least of which is his support for our efforts to both attract and retain exceptional faculty. He will be an even stronger advocate if we work with him and forgo this current indulgence of bitterness and acrimony. In the interest of common sense, let’s turn our attention as a faculty to the things that we do best to enhance the stature and standing of this great University. Namely let’s focus on our own research and teaching and let the present situation evolve in a sensible and constructive fashion.

Finally, we recommend following a suggestion from our colleague John Junkins that has been made to the faculty senate concerning a possible committee formed to advise the Board of Regents, the chancellor, and the university administration at their pleasure.
Vision 1920 applauds Fry, Juziatis, Pishko, Russell, and Scully for volunteering for a Committee to Pleasure the Administration.

Competing visions

In Wednesdays Fort Worth paper, A&M Prof Andrew Dessler writes:
Then-A&M President Robert M. Gates enthusiastically embraced Vision 2020 and started moving the university in that direction by instituting a faculty reinvestment program. Recently, however, an alternative vision has arisen that we will call Vision 1963, after the year Morris Foster, chairman of the Texas A&M board of regents, entered A&M.
Vision 1963 and Vision 1920 share many of the same goals, but we believe that only going back to 1963 isn't enough. But it could be a first step.

An argument for home schooling

In addition to the Faculty Senate, the Council of Principal Investigators is considering a motion of no confidence in the Chancellor.
The group of about 40 people represents about 2,500 members of the Texas A&M research community.
Why is this Council of Principal Investigators butting into A&M business. A&M doesn't even have a principal; do they think this is a High School? No wonder our public schools have problems - the folks who should be investigating principals are wasting their time potbanging about the universities.

And why are there so many of them? Vision 1920 sees a cost-cutting opportunity.

Soul man

Somehow, with all the other things that happened this week, Vision 1920 hasn't responded yet to Jon Hagler's new op-Ed on Sunday.
So, Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry we don't agree. I assure you it gives me no pleasure to be at odds with the governing body of the university I love. But facts and realities are stubborn things.

I believe you and the regents have made it clear to me, at least, that this is a struggle for the soul of this university. You have espoused a political strategy, not an educational or academic strategy. Your words were conciliatory, but with what has passed we need some clear evidence that you and your colleagues understand this university better and mean to be good stewards of this university.

I know that you know this, but this is not an oil company. Our assets do not lie deep in the ground. They stand before, sit in, and walk in and out of our classrooms and laboratories every day. That is a profound fact and it must govern management style if we are to avoid being the laughing stock of higher education.

I beg you to cause this institution to be managed utilizing the best practices developed by the best universities in our country. With all due respect, those best practices are not found within oil companies.
Vampires don't have souls.


Despite hearing from both Chancellor McKinney and President Loftin, the faculty don't seem to be calming down.
Citing concerns about shared governance, improper influence and "irresponsible behavior," a pair of Texas A&M University groups have drafted resolutions of "no confidence" in A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney.

Members of the Council of Principal Investigators can vote on the resolution online until 4 p.m. Friday. The group of about 40 people represents about 2,500 members of the Texas A&M research community.

The Texas A&M University Faculty Senate is scheduled to vote on its no-confidence resolution at a special meeting Tuesday in Room 601 of Rudder Tower.
The CPI resolution lists eight concerns about McKinney
If they were real Ags, they would have come up with 12 concerns.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Complete transparency

Yesterday, President Loftin repeated one of Chancellor McKinney's promises:
The charge to the team leaders is to reduce administrative expenses by at least $20 million by increasing efficiency without sacrificing quality. This will be a completely transparent process.
This website explains the importance of transparency:
The invisibility cloak is the perfect device for moving around undetected. As Harry often has the need to break rules, he needs a device such as this and an invisibility cloak seems like the perfect choice. Unlike the Disillusionment charm, which makes an object a near-perfect chameleon, the invisibility cloak makes the object transparent, and can only be pierced by magical – or possibly cat – eyes
We're also making great progress on Disillusionment here at Texas A&M.

Vision 2020 is hazardous to your career

One of the members of the Vision 2020 executive committee became Chancellor at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale. He stepped down in 2008 after accusations of misconduct:
An informal group called Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption at SIU accused Wendler in September of plagiarizing material from Texas A&M University's Vision 2020 plan during the early stages of Southern at 150, which seeks to make SIUC a top-75 public research university by its 150th anniversary in 2019.

A committee that Poshard formed to review the accusations determined Wendler committed "intellectual dishonesty," not plagiarism, by lifting material form[sic] Vision 2020.
Vision 1920 views this as a cautionary tale what happens when you get too involved in Vision 2020. Let it go, folks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pres. Loftin's town hall

Our new Aggie President's first public town hall meeting was today in Rudder Theater. Overall Vision 1920 thought he did well, but wished he had pointed out the ways in which Vision 1920 (the vision, not the blogger) will btho Vision 2020.

President Loftin was especially good in his answers to two questions: The first claimed there was a crisis of legitimacy, and asked him to comment about the Faculty whiners proposal
Peter McIntyre, a senator from the College of Science, called on the Board of Regents to do two things to show it's committed to shared governance: rescind a policy enacted in March that states it can hire a president not vetted by a search committee, and postpone the timeframe of making recommendations on what services to share until a new president is selected.
President Loftin didn't lower himself to address the inappropriate question about "legitimacy" - we all know that whatever the Board says is legitimate by definition - and he answered by telling the audience how the task forces are moving ahead.

The second question was about why the faculty should trust the Regents and the Chancellor after recent events. The President's answer was even more masterful... he talked about his love for Texas A&M. It made Vision 1920 want to burst into song:
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.

Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

From today's mail

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A better mouse trap, pt 4

  • part 1: Lexicon cuts a deal with TAMUS to create TIGM, backed by the Texas Enterprise Fund
  • part 2: TIGM faces a setback as the NIH doesn't choose it for the Knockout Mouse Project
  • part 3: No one could have seen this coming. TIGM vows to fight on.

In her response to Chancellor McKinney's unfavorable evaluation, then-President Murano wrote:
...a comprehensive audit of the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine revealed many flaws with the management of that entity, which culminated in its dissolution as a 501c(3) non-profit organization. Given that the Texas A&M System had been a partner in this venture, and that it was now the recipient of its assets, the university is committed to partner with the Health Science Center in providing management oversight and significant financial resources in excess of $2 million annually to help TIGM continue to operate in spite of heavy financial losses
If Murano had taken one for the team and silently resigned when the Chancellor gave her his evaluation, then this wouldn't have come up again. As the Chancellor said yesterday:
Shakespeare said, “The past is prologue.” I believe the past can be the past if we agree to work together for the sake of the future.
But since the anti-TIGM potbangers are back, let's address the future of TIGM, with the help of our tame faculty consultant.

Despite the setback in 2006, TIGM inked several deals in 2007 to supply knockout mice to other institutions. The NIH also offered administrative supplements to grantees who would use TIGM or the competing KOMP resource. Nevertheless, the 2008 audit wrote:
TIGM has not generated enough sales to be self-sustaining and experienced a decrease in net assets of $1.5 million in fiscal year 2007. The A&M System paid $1.9 million for utility infrastructure, another $105,000 for payroll in 2008, and has committed $1.2 million to fund expenses associated with the partnership’s transition to a joint institute of TAMU and HSC.
With the worlds largest collection of gene traps, how can that be? One possible explanation is that demand for TIGM mice is not as great as anticipated. In the plan presented to the Regents (found in the Google cache), we find this:
Over 2,000 inquiries have been received from researchers through TIGM’s website since it went live in June of 2006, and over 100 colleges, universities and research institutions located in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia have contracted with TIGM for delivery of mouse ES cells, genetically-engineered mice and related services.
Actual sales figures are not provided in either this agenda item, the audit report, or the TIGM website. Interestingly, the KOMP blog indicates that the NIH-funded effort only hit 100 orders recently.

There are two reasons why demand might be too low to support TIGM. First, it's still expensive to do mouse research and there just aren't that many academic labs to sell to, especially during difficult funding periods. Second, RNAi technology provides a faster route to many of the same goals. RNAi is not a perfect substitute, but it's good enough in many cases.

Competition from RNAi should drive down demand for knockouts unless the prices for knockouts come down. How much can one charge, anyway? When this all started, Lexicon was charging $20-$40K plus IP restrictions. The NIH supplement information says
The NIH share will not exceed $13,125 direct costs, plus indirect costs per mutant. The applicant organization is expected to make up the difference between the funds NIH provides and the cost of the mouse. The Institution must also provide funds for cryopreservation to the NIH-funded repository that will make the mouse mutant available to the research community. This cost is estimated to be ~$2500/mouse.
This fits with the cost of getting a litter of mice from KOMP that might have a germline knockout (or not). KOMP shows the prices if you follow their order form; TIGM doesn't. ES cells are much cheaper: they're less than $700/vial at KOMP. In 2005, the NIH goal was to drive the price much lower.

At those prices, you have to sell a lot of ES cells or mice to cover a $2M/year operating budget. Thus, the Regents' agenda item says:
The worldwide mutant mouse market is over $100 million per year. With the most extensive knockout mouse library of any supplier, TIGM will be able to provide materials that are unavailable through any other source to academic and commercial entities. The sale of knockout mice to academics and non-profits will only be a break-even proposition. However, TIGM will also be able to provide knockout mice at a higher price to commercial companies for their internal research, which will provide an income stream to help support TIGM programs. TIGM personnel will work closely with the TAMUS Office of Technology Commercialization to establish the appropriate procedures for licensing genetically engineered mice to private corporations
Vision 1920's faculty consultant suspects that the $100M number is largely made up of mice sold by Jackson Labs and Charles River Labs, which, between them, sold 9 million mutant mice in 2005 for $10-200 apiece. This includes a lot of "nude mice" used in cancer research and elsewhere. Managing large volumes of small numbers of strains is very different from small volumes of very large numbers of strains.

Breaking even on academic sales may be optimistic. But the new business model seems to be based on raking in big bucks from commercial sales. Vision 1920 doesn't have the data to assess this, but notes that both KOMP and Lexicon are competitors in that market. Whatever TIGM's future, the joint venture part of the story is done. Lexicon is not part of the new TIGM; they've changed from partners to competitors. And they never delivered the bioinformatics software promised in the original agreement.

Nevertheless, in the Eagle story on the audit report, the Chancellor reiterated that TIGM is a "wonderful asset", also saying:
"The idea is great. The science is great. Could we have planned better? Absolutely. Should we have planned better? Yes," A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney told the regents Thursday during the panel's audit committee meeting.

"It's a good idea; it's a good concept that none of us meant to mess up. But we did."
The Chancellor undoubtedly has better information than we do, so that's good enough for us. As loyal Ags, we believe that
Aggie joint ventures never lose money, they just run out of time.

Vision 1920 catching on

Dallas Morning News:
Texas A&M University yearns to be one of the nation's top public universities by the year 2020.

But given the recent embarrassing leadership fiasco – President Elsa Murano resigned after receiving a scathing job review that to some people smacked of politics – a bitter joke around College Station is that it feels more like 1920.
Texas Monthly
Certain things about A&M are indestructible: the love and loyalty of its students and former students, its sound academic foundation, and its importance for the people of Texas. Other things, though, are fragile. One of these is academic reputation. A&M has an official goal, known as Vision 2020, to be in the top rank of public universities by that date. Critics of McKinney’s involvement refer to the current crisis as “Vision 1920.”

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 9

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 9: Build Community and Metropolitan ConnectionsKeep the faculty from talking to reporters. We may have to block Twitter

Leader wants unrest to end

in Iran. What did you think we were talking about?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Now is the winter of our discontent

...made glorius summer by this son of Centerville.

Part of what made Chancellor McKinney's address to the faculty so memorable was how it was so eloquent and literate. He laced it with signs of his classical education. He gave a lesson from the Bible:
Scripture says in Matthew 18:15 if you have a problem with a brother or sister you must go to them and attempt to fix it, just the two of you.
Here's the King James version
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And he quoted the immortal Bard:
Shakespeare said, “The past is prologue.” I believe the past can be the past if we agree to work together for the sake of the future.
The passage is a paraphrase of Antonio's speech from Act 2, Scene 1 of the Tempest:
...We all were sea-swallow'd, though some cast again
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge.
He spoke the speech trippingly, on the tongue. Vision 1920 had to look up what this poetic language is about, though. Fortunately we found an explanation online:
"What's past is prologue," then, translates roughly as "What's already happened merely sets the scene for the really important stuff, which is the stuff our greatness will be made on."

The "act" Antonio proposes is that Sebastian murder his sleeping father, Alonso, King of Naples, and grab the crown. All of them are now "cast" on what they believe is a desert island, so Antonio presumes the crime could easily be covered up.
Later, Ariel saves the King:
While you here do snoring lie,
Open-eyed conspiracy
His time doth take.
If of life you keep a care,
Shake off slumber, and beware:
Awake, awake!

The principles of good research

Chancellor McKinney spoke to the Faculty Senate today. It was a great performance. He challenged the faculty on their own ground:
I encourage you to apply the principles of good research:
  • Check your facts
  • Use multiple sources
  • Seek a primary source (not a blog)

Seek and you shall not find, though, because we simply cannot and will not discuss the details of personnel matters while setting the record straight. Check and mate, suckers! Oh, by the way, Dr. Slack is not a reliable primary source.

Vision 1920 knows he wasn't talking about this blog, since we're such big fans.

Opportunity at TAMU

The Houston Chronicle:
The university’s research program was one of those areas. It is a huge pot of money — $604 million in sponsored research for fiscal year 2008 at the flagship campus and its affiliated state agencies.

At stake, in the mind of many faculty researchers, was the question of whether the university or the system would control the money. Now, the grants are administered by the university or one of several related agencies.

Located in College Station, the system office oversees all 11 schools in the A&M system, along with the agencies and a health science center. But McKinney ratcheted up fears that his office would interfere with university business last month, when he suggested combining his job with Murano’s — in effect, giving the chancellor control of the university.

Monday, Foster said he didn’t support combining the jobs, but that did little to quell the concern.

“He who controls the money controls a lot of things, so I think they (McKinney and the regents) wanted to have more control over research,” said Bill Flores, president and CEO of Phoenix Exploration and a 1976 graduate of A&M.
Research spawns not only money for administrative costs, but also the potential for lucrative commercialization deals, Flores said. “There’s just a lot of opportunity to put money in the system.”
All that indirect cost money isn't being used efficiently now. Just think of the things we could do for the System. Vision 1920 wonders if we really have to let the PIs control how the direct costs are spent...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 8

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 8: Enrich Our CampusWhat do you think?

Phasers on stun

Today's Eagle shows why the faculty aren't competent to participate in running the university:
[BoR Chairman] Foster said that one candidate withdrew from consideration and that another didn't meet the search criteria.
R. Douglas Slack, the chairman of the 2007 search committee, said he was dumbfounded by Foster's remarks.

"Golly, I just, holy cow. ... My goodness. I'm stunned at that," he said when he learned of the chairman's perspective.

Slack makes excuses:
One of the three candidates recommended by the committee had a weather-related emergency at his university that prevented a scheduled interview, Slack said.

Slack, a wildlife science professor and former speaker of the Faculty Senate at A&M, said he and others on the committee believed the candidate made the right decision to stay at his university during the challenging period.

"Values and ethics were the qualities that attracted us to him from the very beginning," Slack said. "Technically, he may have [withdrawn]. But when we turned in the list [to regents], he had not withdrawn. ... The bottom line is, because of the emergency, he couldn't do the interview.

"He wasn't coming for an interview, is all we heard from regents," Slack said.

Why should we hire someone who's desire to lead A&M isn't strong enough to ditch their current employer during a crisis for a 1 in 3 chance of getting the job here?
As for the candidate who didn't meet the search criteria, Slack said he had no idea what the chairman was talking about. Foster did not respond to a message seeking comment.

"You just can't imagine how frustrating this is for our committee," said Slack, who has been in contact with other members of the panel since Foster's opinion piece was released to the media. "I'm frustrated and flabbergasted at the comment about one not meeting the criteria. ... All three candidates are presidents to this day of major universities."
Just another example of faculty arrogance. Did Slack think that the Regents were going to share the criteria with the search committee? Does he post the answer keys before his exams?

A better mouse trap, pt 3

In part 1 of this series, we saw how Texas A&M seized a great opportunity to work with Lexicon Genetics. In part 2, we saw how the NIH didn't recognize TIGM's potential greatness, and chose to put the knockout mouse project elsewhere.

At least one critic is publicly saying "I told you so", but what did smarty-pants Loren Steffy actually say at the time?
If you're like me, you may be feeling a little snookered. Something doesn't seem quite right.
The first problem is my own skepticism. We've been hearing the economic siren song of biotech for decades, yet the grand designs have never attracted the investment they promised. It has gone to Boston and California, but not here.

That's nothing more than a hunch. If you based decisions on this argument, we'd never invest in anything that hadn't been done before.
The second problem stems from the financial round-robin among Gov. Rick Perry and a handful of Lexicon's biggest investors.

As detailed in a Chronicle story Monday, investors who as of March held 16.5 percent of Lexicon's shares have contributed some $275,000 to Perry's campaign. One of them, William McMinn, also helped guarantee a $1.1 million loan for Perry's campaign for lieutenant governor in 1998.

Perry's spokeswoman, Kathy Walt, noted in the story that Lexicon's shares had fallen since the grant was announced, and therefore investors haven't benefited from the deal.
But if the projections of jobs and a subsequent biotech boomlet pan out, those investors are going to reap the benefits.

After all, Lexicon went public at $22 a share in 2000, and it's now trading for less than $5.
The idea that campaign contributors would benefit looks even worse now. Lexicon (LXRX) closed at $1.62 when Steffy wrote his "I told you so"; it closed at $1.19 on Friday.

And in 2005, critics like Steffy couldn't have known the information in the 2008 audit report:
A business plan was requested "as soon as possible" by the TIGM Board of Directors in December 2005 and was discussed in several subsequent Board meetings as "under development." The business plan was reported as "under discussion" as late as June 2006. Two business plans were obtained by the auditors, dated November 2006 and December 2007, indicating the first formal plan was not drafted for a year after it was requested.

Interviews with A&M System Offices, TAMU and HSC employees indicate that a $50 million NIH Knock Out Mouse Project (KOMP) grant proposal that was submitted in December 2005/January 2006 was essentially the business plan for the TIGM partnership and no contingency plans were considered.
operating covenants were never agreed upon as required by an Economic Development agreement between the State of Texas, the A&M System, and the biotechnology company. Additionally, the biotechnology company has not provided services at each location to install bioinformatics software, load databases, and train TIGM staff as provided in the Economic Development agreement.
A joint management committee consisting of one senior manager and one technical staff from each party to the contract (the A&M System, TIGM and the biotechnology company) was never formed and project coordinators from these three entities were never assigned

Who could have predicted these things?

In 2006, after learning that they weren't going to get the grant, TIGM could have folded. Instead, they showed Fightin' Texas Aggie Spirit:
"Taking us on would have made it easy for [NIH] to fulfill its mission," says TIGM President Richard Finnell. Instead, he says, NIH has rejected his institute's application, potentially forcing NIH's Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP) to start from scratch and positioning TIGM as a possible competitor.
Despite the NIH setback, TIGM is planning to make its mark in the mouse world. "It will cost more now, but we're going to get these lines out to researchers," says Finnell. "When people think about knockout mice, they'll think about TIGM."
That's the spirit that makes Texas A&M the fine institution that it is and will alway be. In honor of the boys at TIGM, we've written a new verse for the Spirit of Aggieland:
We are the Aggies - the Aggies are we
True to our gene traps as Aggies can be
We've got to FIGHT boys
We've got to fight!
To get our biotech future right!
After they've boosted all the rest
They'll get their transgenics from the best
For we are the Aggies - the Aggies are we
We're from Texas A.M.C.

TIGM, Aggies!

To be continued...

Special Seminar

"Bidirectional traffic on Highway 6:Lessons for Shared Governance"

Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney and interim Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin.

host:Faculty Senate

3:15 p.m. Monday in Room 601 of Rudder Tower.

Discussion to follow

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 7

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 7: Increase Access to Intellectual ResourcesThis is just typical of how Vision 2020 was dominated by the faculty. The students don't want to be intellectuals. They want to get a degree from Texas A&M so they can get jobs. Besides, they can already access Google and Wikipedia from their cell phones.

More on access here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A&M faculty need to spend more time teaching basics

In the letters to the Eagle:
There was an important error in a column by Morris Foster, chairman of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents (Eagle, June 18). The goal of the Faculty Reinvestment Plan initiated by former A&M President Robert Gates was to hire 400 new faculty with the goal of reducing the average class size.

When combined with faculty retirements and turnover, however, the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty increased only 14 percent, not 30 percent, from 1,649 in the fall of 2004 to 1,884 in the fall of 2008.

In that same time period, student enrollment increased 8 percent. It is not surprising that the professor-to-student ratio has not changed significantly.

If the Chairman of the Board of Regents (Mechanical Engineering '65) can make this kind of mistake, the faculty are not doing their jobs as teachers.

A better mouse trap, pt 2

The situation at the end of part 1 was summarized by Science magazine in 2006:
When the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM) applied to be part of a new $50 million U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) program to knock out as many mouse genes as possible, it seemed to be a shoo-in. Thanks to a partnership with Lexicon Genetics in The Woodlands, Texas, TIGM already has in its freezers knockouts for nearly a third of all mouse genes--twice what global knockout projects have achieved so far (see main text). "Taking us on would have made it easy for [NIH] to fulfill its mission," says TIGM President Richard Finnell.

Instead, the award went, in part, to the wrong Aggies:
NIH awarded five-year cooperative agreements totaling up to $47.2 million to two groups for the creation of the knockout mice lines. Recipients of those awards are Velocigene, a division of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Tarrytown, N.Y., and a collaborative team from Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) in Oakland, Calif., the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis (UC Davis); and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England.

Why didn't NIH go with TIGM? Science speculates:
outside scientists were hesitant to speak on the record. But some researchers Science spoke to said IP restrictions Lexicon has imposed in the past--such as requiring labs and universities to sign away certain rights related to discoveries made using its mice--have been problematic. Under the TIGM deal, however, those restrictions are lifted, says Finnell, "so that wouldn't have been an issue."

Others say NIH is interested in more cutting-edge science than Lexicon is using to make its lines.

In hindsight, looking at the RFA, there's a hint about how Lexicon's cutting edge gene trapping technology was viewed at NIH.
It is estimated that ES cells derived from strain 129 have already been used to produce putative null gene trap mutations that represent nearly 60% of the mouse genes. However, it is widely thought that the productivity (in terms of generating mutations in previously unmutated genes) of the random gene-trap approach is diminishing and may have effectively reached a plateau, so that one or more other approaches will be needed to generate nulls in the remaining genes.

Here at Vision 1920, we didn't understand this technical mumbo-jumbo, so we made an exception to our usual rule of ignoring faculty input and asked what this means.

At the time of the RFA, Lexicon and others had already made knockouts in about 60% of the genes in the mouse genome. The money from NIH was for two purposes: to make that 60% available to researchers, and to get the other 40%. Gene trapping works by making semi-random insertions in the genome and picking out the ones that have hit genes. But you don't have a simple way to make sure every new insertion is in a gene you haven't seen before - you have to map every insertion - and after you've done this for a while, you start seeing the same old genes over and over again instead of finding new ones. The random strategy works better if things are really random, but the scientists don't know how to make them really random. It's sort of like how when you're shooting craps, you will eventually get all the numbers from 2-12, but you'll get more 7s than snake-eyes. In 2004, a letter in Nature Genetics said:
We confirm that Lexicon achieved close to 60% coverage of the genome from 200,000 OmniBank sequence tags deposited in GenBank (Fig. 1). Our analysis, supported independently by Lexicon3, indicates that the rate of trapping new genes was not linear but declined within the first 100,000 tags to a rate at which 1 new gene was added every 35 tags, comparable to the efficiency of high-throughput gene targeting methods

Our tame faculty member said this section of the RFA was kind of a Poisson pill for TIGM.

There were more signs of trouble in the RFA:
As mentioned above, the EUCOMM is using targeted gene trap technology to create a conditional resource in mouse strain 129. Therefore, to avoid duplicating existing resources or efforts, this RFA does not address the generation of additional gene trap mutations in the 129 background. However, proposals based on efficient gene trapping in the C57BL/6 strain background, either in an ES cell line or directly in mouse germ cells/embryos, will be considered.

Our boys in the Woodlands started out with a big lead. But instead of just paying for the Lexicon snowflake mice, a bunch of spoilers started their own gene trapping project. And the Europeans had a some advantages: they were public, they had EU funding backing them up, and they weren't just making the same kind of traps... they were making something called a conditional trap.

The potbangers will say that the TAMUS should have been able to see this coming. But that's 20-20 hindsight. It took Vision 1920 several hours to find this information from material that was published by 2006. And we had to compromise our principles and ask for faculty input to figure out what it meant.

In any case, the NIH decision was a dark day for TIGM. Sometimes the ref makes the wrong call.

To be continued...

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020, pt 6

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 6: Diversify and Globalize the A&M CommunityWe're inviting Hugo Chavez to consult on shared governance. Does that count?

Name that University

From a letter in today's Eagle:
...In view of the recent controversies that have been taking place between the president, the chancellor, the Board of Regents, the students, the faculty, the alumni and the politicians, it might as well be called Texas Argumentative and Meddling University...

Vision 1920 will put a stop to the arguments and meddling. Those faculty whiners need to stop meddling in how this great institution is run. Vision 1920 agrees with the writer that having A&M not stand for anything is a lost opportunity, so we're working on a new name for A&M. Our naming committee has come up with a list of finalists:
  • Texas After Murano University
  • Texas Adulterated & Miserable University
  • Texas Affordable & Moribund University
  • Texas Antediluvian & Mediocre University

We're still working on our goal of getting rid of committees.

A better mouse trap

If you look around the internet, you'll find some potbangers trying to malign the outstanding work our System has been doing at the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine. To set the record straight, let's review what happened:

Back in 1995, a company called Lexicon Genetics set up shop in the Woodlands, based on a dream of making mice that could help cure all kinds of diseases. By 1998, they were describing some of the first successes in making mice with mutations in genes that had been knocked out by a "gene trap", and soon they described a library of frozen mouse stem cell lines for the world to use.

Now, it stands to reason that in our capitalist society, someone with a better mousetrap would be allowed to make a buck on it. A review in the prestigious Nature Reviews Genetics wrote:
Sequence-based initiatives are well suited to the biotech world and therefore, predictably, Lexicon Genetics, Inc., was founded on the basis of using polyA gene trapping. More than 100,000 trap insertions in ES cells have been deposited into Lexicon Genetics 'OmniBank'... By searching the OmniBank database, clones can be identified that harbour an insertion in a particular gene, and mice derived from the trapped cell lines can be purchased at a minimum cost of US $25,000, plus additional compensation if patents are generated from work with trapped strains.

So, in 2005 Governor Perry cut a deal to let the A&M system help exploit this gold mine for the citizens of Texas.
Gov. Rick Perry today [July 16, 2005] announced a $50 million Texas Enterprise Fund grant to help create the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM), a pioneering research institution that will help make Texas an international focal point for medical research and foster job growth in the life science industry.
The funds are being awarded to Lexicon Genetics and the Texas A&M University System, which are forming the non-profit TIGM.

At the time, it was expected that the National Institutes of Health was looking to spend $50 million on a knockout mouse project, and TIGM would be perfectly placed to recover all of the TEF investment. Sure enough, that fall, the NIH released a Request For Applications.
  • The ultimate aim of the Knockout Mouse Project is to generate a null-mutant mouse resource comprising a null mutation marked with a reporter of high utility for each gene in mouse strain C57BL/6. The purpose of this RFA is to make maximum progress toward this goal using gene targeting, transposon-mediated mutagenesis or gene trapping.
  • Up to $50 million in total costs over 5 years is to be awarded through this RFA.
  • It is anticipated that 1 to 4 awards will be made.
  • It is anticipated that the awards will be funded in July 2006.

To be continued...

Friday, June 19, 2009

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020, pt 5

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 5: Build on the Tradition of Professional EducationWe agree with this one. A&M build on our tradition of educating professionals. Recruits need to see that playing for A&M will help their chances in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

Cute when they're angry

The thing about faculty is that they'll fume and rail, but at the end of the day they'll congratulate themselves for passing resolutions and fold up and crawl back to their cushy tenured jobs.

Vision 1920 treats them with the level of respect they deserve.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Margraves files

In his interview with the Eagle, President Loftin emphasized saving money:
"The objective I've been given is, we need to be cost-effective," said Loftin, sporting one of his trademark bow ties, a maroon one. "We need to anticipate that the economic situation we're in now will not improve that quickly. So it makes sense for us to very quickly examine our own costs and our structures to make sure we do things as efficiently as possible."

President Loftin is the right man for the job, based on his experience in Galveston.
Ross Margraves Jr. -- who was convicted of felony misconduct more than a decade ago for his actions as a Texas A&M University Regent and later pardoned -- has been recommended for a board position at the system's Galveston branch.
Margraves was recommended for the position by R. Bowen Loftin, the Galveston branch's chief executive officer and vice president.

Anyone who's ever watched the Rockford files knows what a great job a pardoned felon can do.

Crossing over

Murano's minion, Russell Cross is out. President Loftin saw him last weekend:
"Russ has been a great friend, a great person to work with the last year or so," Loftin said. "I saw him briefly Saturday evening. And he was talking in fairly joyous terms about returning to teaching. ... He was really in a happy, relaxed mode on Saturday evening."

Free at last!

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020, pt 4

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 4: Build the Letters, Arts, and Sciences CoreWhat do we need more letters for? We can save a lot of money by getting rid of some of the ones we have. Besides, it's spelled C-O-R-P-S, not C-O-R-E.

A choice not an echo

Morris Foster, today:
I do think it is important to clear up a common misconception about the last search process. It has been alleged as fact that the search committee made a recommendation for three viable candidates to the board in 2007. This is simply not true. Though I am not at liberty to discuss those candidates for obvious confidentiality reasons, it should be pointed out that one candidate had withdrawn from the selection process, and a second didn’t even meet the search criteria. In essence, the board was given the choice of one candidate, which is not a choice. If the board is confined to choosing one candidate based on stakeholder input, it is the equivalent of conceding its governing authority. That we will not do.

It doesn't matter whether the one candidate was a strong candidate, you gotta have a choice. Like when you have one candidate without stakeholder input, that's a choice.

Praise from the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News has an editorial about recent events in Aggieland. They point out how our leaders have taken A&M to "new heights"!
Murano's bosses have taken personnel clumsiness to new heights, shortchanging the university mightily at a time it aims to measure up to its ambitious Vision 2020 plan. The job of A&M president must now look like a snake pit to top talent capable of leading a university of distinction.

Everyone has to be the best at something!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A message from the new Prez

To the Aggie Family:

It is an honor and privilege to have this opportunity to serve as interim president of Texas A&M University. As a former student and a faculty member, both here and in Galveston, as well as CEO of our Galveston campus, I have an abiding love for Texas A&M and a keen awareness of its rich history and countless contributions in the areas of teaching, research and service. I pledge to the Aggie Family that this transition to a new interim administration will be as seamless and efficient as possible, and that I will continue to promote our core values as well as our status as one of the top teaching and research universities in the nation. I look forward to working alongside each of you as we continue to enhance and advance our great university.

Over the days and weeks ahead, I will be meeting with faculty, students, staff, former students and other stakeholders to seek their perspectives about the important issues facing our university as we move forward. I welcome the opportunity to meet personally with as many of you as possible. Even with our recent challenges, please be assured that we will not waver from our firm commitment to the citizens of our state, nation and world. Thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to Texas A&M University.

Dr. R. Bowen Loftin
Interim President

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020, pt 3

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 3: Enhance the Undergraduate Academic ExperienceEnhancement is code for nonsense we don't need. A&M was a damn fine school when the Governor went there; we can save a lot of money by cutting all the PC nonsense that came after that.

Nothing has changed

President Loftin:
"My first challenge is to let everyone know that nothing has changed in the mission of the university," he said. "My job right now is to bring some stability and calm to the university."

Nothing to see here. Move along

"Nothing has changed" needs an ad campaign:

National recognition

A variety of places have reported Sen. Hutchinson on recent events
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas who is running for governor, said in a statement that politics were behind Murano’s exit.

“Texas A&M University is one of the premier universities in the country. The current situation with the leadership is unfortunate, unacceptable, and does the great Aggie community a disservice,” the senator wrote. “I hope at their meeting today, the Board of Regents remains focused on keeping A&M a nationally recognized university and ends the politics involved now.”
This is unfair. We're getting national recognition.

Confidence game

In today's Eagle:
At a rally outside the Memorial Student Center before the Board of Regents meeting Monday morning, Bob Bednarz, speaker of the faculty senate, read a statement saying that recent actions by A&M System officials led him to believe that faculty input is neither valued nor desired.

"I fear that the events of the past month have had significant negative impacts on faculty morale, on the academic image of Texas A&M, and, therefore, on our ability to attract and retain the best and brightest people who are recruited to A&M by the faculty.
Attracting and retaining the best and brightest people takes costs money. Vision 1920 is a creative solution to our budget problems. The Ags who went to A&M in the 1920s were part of the greatest generation. By hiring faculty who only have to teach what was good enough for in the 1920s, we can keep tuition low, and we won't have to hire those liberal hippies who want to ruin what makes A&M a damned fine university.

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 2

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 2: Strengthen Our Graduate ProgramsNow that we're giving up on the pointless and expensive pursuit of quality, we can save the taxpayers a lot of money by getting rid of the grad students. They keep the faculty from spending time on real teaching, and they aren't eligible for football.

And they're troublemakers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet the new boss

Loftin said he had worked closely with Murano during her year-and-a-half as president, but did not sense any issues with her performance until media reports surfaced recently.

Apparently the Chancellor was the only one who saw the threat to the System posed by Murano. He must have super spider-sense, like Spiderman. Gotta be careful with that spider-sense, though... if you don't tune it right, you get false positives.

Must say... the new Prez looks like he could lead us into the 1920s.

o rly?

Houston Chron
SAN ANTONIO — Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he was not surprised by the sudden resignation of Texas A&M president Elsa Murano.
This just in: Brutus not surprised by the sudden demise of Julius Caesar.


This is the kind of thing that will help Texas A&M build the economy of the state:
June 10, 2008 -- The Texas A&M University System, Austin-based Introgen Therapeutics, Inc. and its wholly owned spinout Introgen Technical Services, Inc. (ITS) today announced formation of a far-reaching alliance to develop and produce therapeutics, vaccines and delivery systems for human and veterinary applications. The alliance will work with the biopharmaceutical industry, academic researchers and government clients, including the biodefense and public health sectors.

Newly formed ITS, whose principal function will be to provide a steady inventory stream for parent Introgen Technical Services, a biopharmaceutical firm, also will concentrate on enhancing Good Manufacturing Practices protocols at Introgen’s various sites in Texas. Initially that includes two GMP facilities in Houston and future expansions elsewhere in the state. GMP standards, based on regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, require manufacturers of drug and related products to take proactive steps to ensure maximum safety and purity of their products.

Well maybe not. I'm sure they had a good answer for this:
I thought I'd travel back in time to recount for the investing public what Introgen has been promising and repeatedly failing to deliver with respect to applying to the FDA for approval of Advexin. It is truly astonishing to see how badly this company failed to deliver on its promises, and really makes one wonder how they are able to continue raising capital to keep the whole thing afloat. It is amazing how much "credit" biotech investors are willing to extend to management teams that have done nothing to deserve any credibility.

I mean, I'm sure they asked.

Maybe it should be Vision 1919

10-0, Southwest Conference and National Champs! Those were the days... none of this spread nonsense.

We need to get Trinity, Southwestern, and Howard Payne back on the schedule. On second thought, Trinity might try to pull one of those crazy lateral plays. Forget Trinity.

We should put Coach Bible on the Board of Regents. I know, he's been dead since 1980. That's OK, it makes it less likely he'll end up at tu this time.

This mess wouldn't have happened in 1920

Women didn't get to vote in the US until 1920.

How Vision 1920 will btho Vision 2020 pt 1

Vision 2020Vision 1920
Imperative 1: Elevate Our Faculty and Their Teaching, Research, and ScholarshipLet those lazy whiners take the stairs

Doomed to be half-vast

Old Ag Jon Hagler writes in the Eagle
Listen to the chancellor's own words on his concept of enlightened and shared governance: "There's nine people who can tell me what to do. I'll make my arguments to them. They argue, they listen and then they make a decision and I carry it out. You want shared governance? That's shared governance."

Or to those of Regent Gene Stallings: "A lot of that depends on Dr. Murano (on whether she can continue to work with the chancellor). She works for the chancellor. The chancellor doesn't work for her. Rank and file has its privilege. A colonel can't tell a general what to do. ... A chancellor's job is to run the system. A president's job is to please the chancellor."

So, today we have a Texas A&M System empowered by its regents -- all nine of whom are appointed by our current governor -- to make all critical decisions for the flagship university, as well -- presumably -- as for all of the other system universities. And, the regents have delegated that responsibility completely to one person, a non-educator, a politician who was not selected through a national or even regional search. One person agreed with himself that Chancellor McKinney was the choice: his former boss, Gov. Rick Perry, for whom he had served a stint as chief of staff.

No, this crisis is about whether the faculty, staff, students, former students and the broad and diverse community that make up Texas A&M University will allow a handful of politically motivated persons who do not understand their fiduciary duty either to the institution or to the citizens of the state to take over this wonderful, heavy-duty public university -- this sacred public trust.

If they are successful, Texas and its citizens can kiss a unique American institution goodbye. It will have no chance of ever achieving its vast potential.