Saturday, June 27, 2009

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.

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