Sunday, December 17, 2000

IU gets $105M for biotech research

Lilly Endowment gift likely to cause envy at Ohio schools

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Plans to boost biotech research and development in Ohio now face much stiffer competition from a next-door neighbor — Indiana.

        On Thursday, Indiana University announced that it had received a $105 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to launch the Indiana Genomics Initiative. The goal is to hire 75 more genetics experts within three years to accelerate medical research for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and other conditions.

        School officials described the initiative as the largest research undertaking ever attempted at IU, made possible by a single grant three times larger than any the school had previously received.

        IU leaders predict the work funded by the grant will attract other grants, spawn corporate spinoffs and ultimately create 500 high-tech jobs, primarily in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

        “Because of IU's nationally recognized expertise in supercomput ing and informatics, this grant holds promise to develop a critical mass of intellectual capital in our state's life sciences industry cluster,” said Sara Cobb, the Lilly Endowment's vice president of education.

        The Lilly Endowment is a charity created in 1937 by family owners of Eli Lilly & Co., one of America's pharmaceutical giants. The grant immediately boosts Indiana University into major-league biotech research.

        It also stirred a note of envy at the University of Cincinnati, where officials are still hunting for sponsors to help double its biotech research, a project that involves spending more than $200 million to rebuild its medical sciences building, renovate a research building in Reading and hire 260 faculty members.

        “It's a great gift for the state of Indiana and the college,” said Dr. Donald Harrison, UC's senior vice president and provost for health affairs. “It demonstrates the kind of competition that's going on.

        “It's not just Indiana,” he said. “Ohio is facing increased spending from Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and California.”

        In Michigan, legislators recently released the first $100 million from that state's tobacco class action settlement, including $47 million for biotech research at the University of Michigan.

        Meanwhile, an executive of Netscape recently gave $150 million to Stanford University's biomedical engineering department.

        Biotech efforts in Cincinnati have not seen such large-scale private or public grants, Dr. Harrison said.

        In Ohio, UC and other universi ties are slated to share about $35 million in tobacco money over the next two years, with about $30 million coming the second year, Dr. Harrison said.

        That amount falls well short of the state support the schools would like. An “Ohio Plan” developed by the Ohio Board of Regents calls for the state to pump $150 million a year for several years into biotech and high-tech research at several universities.


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