Saturday, July 18, 2009

Umbrella, from the latin Umbra for shadow

The Eagle reports the expected announcement to go forward with tIIT.
Amid strong dissent from some faculty members, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents took a step Friday toward creating a controversial new therapeutics research center at its flagship university.

Regents also voted to rearrange the structure of other therapeutics-related organizations within the system -- placing the organizations located throughout the system under an umbrella agency in System Chancellor Mike McKinney's office.
Vision 1920 can't imagine why faculty are concerned about some research being taken over by the System. Besides this part, we mean.
Regents asked Bennett and Pishko if they knew why faculty members were opposed to the plans. Both said they were baffled.

Pishko said that he had heard of opposition from the Council of Principal Investigators, a group representing hundreds of university researchers, but that most engineering professors supported the idea. No one from the council was involved in the center, he said.

He said he had no idea why the group opposed the plans and said he hadn't spoken to any members.
This refers to the NCTM; most faculty probably hadn't heard of the tIIT until now. According to Vision 1920's sources, the CPI asked Pishko to speak to them after the NCTM was mentioned in their resolution of no-confidence in the chancellor, but he declined. Bennett and Pishko are the engineering guys, so our confidence in them is not shaken by their failure to grasp the objections of their colleagues
"I think the concern is how this is going to be funded and that there are risks involved that have not been discussed in the open," said Deborah Bell-Pederson, a biology professor and chair of the council. She declined to comment further.
Fully equipped and operational, the center will cost $65 million, Giroir said, but officials initially will spend only the $50 million from the governor's office. They hope to obtain the other $15 million with revenue from research grants and partnerships brought in once the center has successfully begun attracting income and researchers, he said.
Vision 1920 is confident that potential partners and grant agencies will be happy to pony up the shortfall, plus a share of the operating costs needed after the $65M setup (TIGM was reported to cost $2M/year to run. The GMP components of NCTM are likely to cost at least that much).

Vision 1920 is sure that with another executive director at the System level, an Operations Board, and the biotech talent we already have in the System offices, tIIT will find creative ways to hide its real costs raise the money needed. For example:
  • By giving tIIT staff academic appointments, personnel costs can be buried in the University budget
  • "research grants and partnerships brought in once the center has successfully begun attracting income and researchers" doesn't necessarily limit the System to grants to the center, just to awards made after some future date. Staff at the Office of Technology Commercialization can identify researchers whose research is relevant, whether they think so or not.
  • Costs can be foisted off on the taxpayers by having our friends in Austin make sure that ETF funds go to companies that agree to contract with tIIT.
  • Now that Murano is gone, we can go back to quietly making loans like the one that went to the Athletic Dept.

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