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Discoveries will be property of regents

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA President Peter Likins speaks at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting at the Student Union Memorial Center on Friday afternoon.
By Greg Holt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 24, 2003
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The Arizona Board of Regents approved new guidelines for Arizona's genetics research center that they hope will give it the flexibility it needs to function properly and get its discoveries out into the marketplace.

All three state universities spent millions to bring one of the best geneticists in the nation to Arizona with the hope that it will turn the state into a leader in the biosciences.

At the meeting, the presidents reiterated their hope that the new agreement will facilitate returns on their investment.

"We regard this undertaking as a very, very good beginning, but it's only a beginning," said President Peter Likins. "I think we have accomplished what is expected of us."

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), headed by renowned geneticist Jeff Trent, is a

nonprofit biosciences research institute in Phoenix. Researchers in its labs take their discoveries and put them toward practical uses, such as the development of medicines.

The new Academic Affiliation Agreement creates a board of directors for TGen consisting of the presidents of the UA, ASU and NAU, and one representative designated by Arizona Board of Regents. It also requires each university to appoint a TGen liaison to streamline relations between TGen and the three universities.

Although the agreement frees up TGen from having to operate under certain Arizona Board of Regents and university policies, it also mandates that all TGen discoveries are to be the intellectual property of Arizona Board of Regents.

ASU President Michael Crow reminded the regents that the success of TGen depends on each university staying committed to TGen and working together on the project.

"This is a very steep hill we're trying to climb," Crow said. "We're all in this together."

NAU president John Haeger likened the project to Star Alliance, the network that helps airline companies work together in order to operate more efficiently.

"TGen is in much of the same spirit it can only be done by a partnership between the government and the universities," Haeger said.

Trent formed TGen so that he could turn the often-theoretical work done at universities into medical and biological advances that can be used by people, essentially bridging the gap between research and application.

To do this, Trent needs to draw on the resources from all three universities as well as TGen itself. This agreement works to define that partnership in the hope that bureaucratic procedures won't prevent TGen from achieving its mission.

"TGen's success was the beginning of a shift in political and public awareness," Likins said.

TGen research encompasses cancer research, DNA sequencing and neurogenomics the study of conditions including autism and schizophrenia.

Also approved in Friday's ABOR meeting was a special program fee for UA law students that will cost those pursuing a juris doctor degree an additional $1,500 a year. Those students pursuing a master of law degree pay an additional $500 per year.

"We feel we are able to apply this fee and still have a competitive price," said George Davis, UA executive vice president and provost.

The Board of Regents also approved the final budget for the Architecture building expansion as $7.2 million. This final budget includes $1.2 million raised from private donations.

Andrea Kelly contributed to this report.

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