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Monday, December 13, 2004
Cal Ingenuity Could Lead to Malaria Cure
The Associated Press has some very good news (both for Berkeley students and people in danger of getting malaria) in an article "Gates Funds Malaria Research Drug":
Working with a biotechnology company, the San Francisco-based Institute for OneWorld Health will try to turn the genetic engineering efforts of Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkley into an inexpensive and effective drug to fight malaria in the third world. An announcement was expected Monday.Programs like this have both some potential benefits and problems.
1) Private companies often have a substantial R and D budget which they are more than happy to spend at Berkeley or other universities if there are scientists working in a field relating to their business. This helps finance cutting edge technology here at Berkeley and provides the funding to update our scientific infrastructure.
2) Close cooperation between private industry and UC Berkeley encourages these companies to locate themselves close to the Bay Area, which in turn is good for the CA economy, which can lead to an increase in revenue for the state (some of which is passed back to Berkeley).
3) Any partnership between Berkeley and a private company risks endangering the academic freedom of the University if concern over continued funding leads the administration to side with big business over our professors. For an example of where this line may have been crossed, the Berkeley Daily Planet had an article last week on the ongoing struggle of Ignacio Chapela, whose research angered big-time university partner Novartis. Chapela's tenure was denied, and deference to financial concerns by the University appears to be a plausible explanation for his rejection.
There is just one thing in the article that I disagree with:
"I hope that UC Berkeley's participation will serve as a model for other academic institutions to apply their scientific knowledge and resources to critical global health problems," said Dr. Regina Rabinovich, director of infectious diseases at the Gates Foundation.I, on the other hand, hope that this cooperative effort goes very well, but does not "serve as a model for other academic institutions". Let's keep all the money here in Berkeley.
*Update* It appears there is less money for Berkeley in this deal than I suspected. Whether or not this specific example is still applicable, there is still a large number of private/public partnerships to consider. A longer article on the subject has this information:
To ensure affordability, UC Berkeley has issued a royalty-free license to both OneWorld Health and Amyris, of Albany, Calif., to develop the technology for malaria treatments.It seems unclear, but possible that some of the money in the Gates grant could be funnelled to Berkeley to assist in the research:
A $43m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Institute for OneWorld Health, the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company in the United States, will create a powerful new approach to developing a more affordable, accessible cure for malaria, which kills more than a million children each year.Email This Post!
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