NOVARTIS: Signs $25 Million Deal With Berkeley
Monday's signing of a $25 million research deal between Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG and the University of California-Berkeley has "rekindled debate about the ethics of corporate-campus marriages." Under the agreement, Novartis will give Berkeley access to its cutting-edge resources and fund basic agricultural genetic research in return for first negotiation rights for 30% to 40% of the discoveries. The AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports that the "deal is unusual in that the money, $5 million a year for five years, covers the entire plant and microbial biology department of the College of Natural Resources" (Locke, 11/24).
Biotic Baking Brigade
Two members of a group known as the Biotic Baking Brigade interrupted the signing ceremony to protest the deal yesterday and threw pies at Douglas Watson, CEO of Novartis and Gordon Rausser, dean of Berkeley's College of Natural Resources (Burress, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/24). Students for Responsible Research issued the statement, "We believe there are too few safeguards in this alliance ... to protect academic freedom." But Steven Briggs of Novartis said, "This research is, in my view, the final statement in academic freedom. It's not just the freedom to wish you could do something, it's the resources that give you the freedom to actually do it." Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the partnership is "the inevitable trend of the future," but "clearly raises some tough questions." He noted that "what's missing is a formal framework for dealing with issues such as research biases and faculty allegiances" (Locke, 11/24). The Chronicle reports that the deal "is patterned after a 1993 alliance between the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and Sandoz. That deal was modified after criticism from the National Institutes of Health" (Burress, 11/24).