Headline, January 24 2024/ ''' BILLIONAIRES -UNIVERSITIES- BULLETINS * '''



IN AN UNMARKED LABORATORY BETWEEN the campuses of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a splinter group of scientists is hunting for the next billion -dollar drug.

The group, bankrolled with $500 million from some of the wealthiest families in American business, has created a stir in academia by dangling seven-figure paydays to lure highly credentialed university professors to a for-profit bounty hunt.

It's self-described goal : to avoid the blockages and paperwork that slow down the traditional paths of scientific research at universities and pharmaceutical companies and discover scores of new drugs [ at first, for cancer and brain disease ] that can be produced and sold quickly.

Braggadocio from start-ups to de rigueur, and plenty of ex-academics have started biotechnology companies, hoping to strike it rich on their one big discovery. This group, rather boastfully named Arena BioWorks, borrowing from a Teddy Roosevelt quote,  doesn't have one singular idea, but it does have a big checkbook.

'' I'm not apologetic about being a capitalist, and that motivation from a team is not a bad thing,'' said the technology magnate Michael Dell, one of the group's backers. Others include an heiress to the Subway sandwich fortune and an owner of the Boston Celtics.

The wrinkle is that for decades, many drug discoveries have not just originated at colleges and universities, but also produced profits that helped fill their endowment coffers.

The University of Pennsylvania, for one, has said it earned hundreds of millions of dollars for research into mRNA vaccines used against Covid-19.

Under this model, any such windfall would remain private.

Arena has been operating in stealth mode since early fall, before the turmoil over Israel and Gaza erupted at the colleges it borders. Yet the impulse behind it, say researchers who have jumped to the new lab, is becoming only more acute as the reputations of institutions of higher learning take a hit.

They say they are frustrated with the slow pace and administrative bogdowns at their former employers, as well as what one new hire, J. Keith Joung, said was ''atrocious'' pay at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he worked before Arena.

'' It used to be that it was considered a failure to go from academics to industry,'' said Dr. Joung, a pathologist who helped design the gene-editing tool CRISPR. '' Now the model has flipped.''

The motivation behind Arena has scientific, financial and even emotional components.

Its earliest backers first mused about the idea at a late-2021 confab at a mansion in Austin, Texas, where Mr. Dell, along with the early Facebook investor James W. Breyer and an owner at the Celtics, Stephen Pagliuca, vented to one another about the seemingly endless requests for money from collegiate fund-raisers.

Mr. Pagliuca has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to his alma maters, Duke University and Harvard, largely earmarked for science.

That earned him seats on four advisory boards at the institutions, but it began to dawn on him that he didn't have any concrete idea what all that money had produced, save for his name on a few plaques outside various university buildings.

Over the subsequent months, those early backers teamed up with a Boston venture capitalist and trained medical doctor, Thomas Cahill, to devise a plan.

Dr. Cahill said he would help find frustrated academics willing to give up their hard-fought university tenure, as well as scientists from companies like Pfizer, in exchange for a hefty cut of the profits from any drugs they discovered.

Arena's billionaire backers will keep 30 percent, with the remainder flowing to scientists and for overhead.

For profit-science is, of course, nothing new, the $1.5 trillion pharmaceutical industry provides ample proof. Businessmen such as Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into start-ups that try to extend human life, and plenty of pharmaceutical companies have raided universities for talent.

A 2019 study from a former dean of Harvard Medical School, Jeffrey Flier, said a majority of ''new insights'', into biology and disease came from academia.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Scientists, Funding, Universities and Talent, continues. The World Students Society thanks Rob Copeland.

With respectful dedication to the Global Founder Framers of The World Students Society - the exclusive and eternal ownership of every student in the world, and then Mankind, Students, Professors and Teachers.

See You all prepare for Great Global Elections : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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