Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Scripps-USC Update: $21 Million Scripps Deficit, Talks at Standstill

The San Diego U-T today reported that The Scripps Research Institute is running a $21 million annual deficit, a key reason that it is discussing a partnership with USC although those talks have apparently hit a wall.

“Deep freeze” is the term quoted by Bradley Fikes and Gary Robbins in their latest article concerning a possible hookup between the two institutions.

Michael Marletta
Scripps photo
Robbins and Fikes quoted from the minutes of a meeting Monday involving a handful of faculty and administrators at Scripps, which is located in La Jolla, Ca.. They also carried remarks from an email today from Michael Marletta, who became president of Scripps in 2011.  Marletta said,
"The institute has on hand enough funds to continue operating with no changes in its operations and without disposing of any real estate or other property for the foreseeable future. We are, however, being proactive about the future economic environment with a process in place and commitment to addressing the operating deficit — this financial picture would be the envy of many biomedical institutes."
Marletta continued,
"The market forces affecting The Scripps Research Institute are being felt by all independent biomedical research institutes, universities and medical schools across the country. Specifically, these include declines in National Institutes of Health funding and a downturn in basic research support from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries."
USC, which is located in Los Angeles, has sent a nonbinding letter to Scripps stating that it would pay $600 million over a 40 year period to take over Scripps. Fikes and Robbins wrote,
“USC is trying to improve its modest standing in chemistry and biology, areas where Scripps Research is a world leader.”
The Fikes-Robbins story carries the full text of two Q&A email exchanges between Marletta, Scripps and the two reporters.  At one point, Marletta said,
“We are in no danger of financial collapse. If we did nothing we would likely reach a tenuous point in about five years. However, doing nothing is not an option and not our plan. There are both short-term and long-term options to consider that will keep Scripps and its outstanding scientific programs here for a very long time.”
The text of the minutes of Monday’s meeting is also carried on the San Diego U-T site. The meeting was of a group of faculty and administrators recently formed to improve communications about Scripps’ status and to build support for changes.

Richard Gephardt
Gephardt Government Affairs photo
The group is chaired by Richard Gephardt, the former House majority leader who twice unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president. He now runs a Washington lobbying firm bearing his name and is chairman of the Scripps board.

“Gephardt has also been significantly involved with the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to a large lobbying contract with the Medicines Company,[30] Gephardt serves as chair of the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI), formed by and affiliated with PhRMA. In this capacity he hired his own firm to lobby for the organization, to push to extend patents and block generic drugs from the market.[31]
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