[Ip-health] NYTimes.com: Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science

Ruth Lopert ruth.lopert at gmail.com
Mon Mar 17 21:57:42 PDT 2014

Is anyone really surprised by this?
Is there any aspect of our society these days that isn't being shaped by
the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money?

On Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 1:38 PM, Jamie Love <james.love at keionline.org>wrote:

> There is a very long (about 5700 words) story in the New York Times, by
> William J. Broad, on the role and consequences of billionaires funding
> science in the United States.    I have some excepts below.  Jamie
> http://nyti.ms/1qGIaiI
> A version of this article appears in print on March 16, 2014, on page A1 of
> the New York edition with the headline: Billionaires With Big Ideas Are
> Privatizing American Science.
> ..........
> "For better or worse," said Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the
> American Association for the Advancement of Science, "the practice of
> science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities
> or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of
> individuals with huge amounts of money."
> ...........
> As the power of philanthropic science has grown, so has the pitch, and the
> edge, of the debate. Nature, a family of leading science journals, has
> published a number of wary editorials, one warning that while "we applaud
> and fully support the injection of more private money into science," the
> financing could also "skew research" toward fields more trendy than
> central.
> ...........
> Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that
> cultivates science for the common good. They worry that the philanthropic
> billions tend to enrich elite universities at the expense of poor ones,
> while undermining political support for federally sponsored research and
> its efforts to foster a greater diversity of opportunity -- geographic,
> economic, racial -- among the nation's scientific investigators.
> Historically, disease research has been particularly prone to unequal
> attention along racial and economic lines. A look at major initiatives
> suggests that the philanthropists' war on disease risks widening that gap,
> as a number of the campaigns, driven by personal adversity, target
> illnesses that predominantly afflict white people -- like cystic fibrosis,
> melanoma and ovarian cancer.
> ..............
> Public money still accounts for most of America's best research, as well as
> its remarkable depth and diversity. What is unclear is how far or fast that
> balance is shifting, since no one, either in or out of government, has been
> comprehensively tracking the magnitude and impact of private science. In
> recognition of its rising profile, though, the National Science Foundation
> recently announced plans to begin surveying the philanthropic landscape.
> ...........
> Eli Broad, who earned his money in housing and insurance, donated $700
> million for a venture between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of
> Technology to explore the genetic basis of disease. Gordon Moore of Intel
> has spent $850 million on research in physics, biology, the environment and
> astronomy. The investor Ronald O. Perelman, among other donations, gave
> more than $30 million to study women's cancers -- money that led to
> Herceptin, a breakthrough drug for certain kinds of breast cancer.
> ...........
> In the recent interview, Dr. Collins of the N.I.H. acknowledged that the
> philanthropists were "terrifically important" for filling gaps and taking
> advantage of new opportunities. The science, he emphasized, "has never been
> at a more exciting moment."
> Still, he and other experts are quick to add that the private surge is far
> too small to replace public financing.
> The N.I.H. budget alone runs to about $30 billion -- half for basic
> research. At least for now, said Dr. Press, the board chairman of the
> American Association for the Advancement of Science, private giving is
> "still a drop in the bucket."
> ..........
> The issues are considered social as well as intellectual, and so, in their
> own grant-making decisions, federal agencies strive to ensure that their
> money does not flow just to established stars at elite institutions. They
> consider gender and race, income and geography.
> ............
> In the meantime, Fiona E. Murray, a professor of entrepreneurship at
> M.I.T., has taken a different tack, studying not the donors but the
> recipients -- particularly the nation's research universities.
> To simplify the task, she looked at the 50 leading universities in
> science-research spending, places like Columbia and Stanford, Duke and
> Harvard, Michigan and Johns Hopkins.
> What Dr. Murray found sheds light on the scope of the phenomenon, as well
> as questions about who benefits. Private donors now account for roughly 30
> percent of the schools' research money, she reported, adding that the rise
> of science philanthropy may simply help "rich fields, universities and
> individuals to get richer."
> The new patrons are responsible for one of the most striking trends on
> these campuses: the rise of privately financed institutes, the new temples
> of science philanthropy.
> In Cambridge, Mass. -- home to M.I.T. and Harvard -- they include the $100
> million Ragon Institute for immunology research, the $150 million Koch
> Institute for cancer studies, the $165 million Stanley Center for
> Psychiatric Research, the $250 million Wyss Institute for Biologically
> Inspired Engineering, the $350 million McGovern Institute for brain
> research, the $450 million Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and
> the $700 million Broad Institute for genome research.
> "If I'm a rich person, I'm going to give to a leading institution -- to
> Harvard or Princeton," Dr. Murray said in an interview. That pattern, she
> added, "poses big issues" for the nation.
> ............
> Many of their efforts are rooted deep in personal or family trauma.
> Sometimes, by sheer force of genetics and demographics, that impulse may
> risk widening historical racial inequalities in health care and disease
> research, disparities that decades of studies have shown to contribute to
> higher rates of disease and death among blacks, Hispanics and other
> minority groups.
> A review of these campaigns finds that, as with cystic fibrosis -- which
> mainly
> strikes people<
> http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/cf.pdf
> >of
> Northern European descent -- a significant number are devoted to
> diseases
> that disproportionately affect white people.
> Ovarian cancer strikes<
> http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/statistics/race.htm>and
> kills white women more often than minority women. In 2012, after his
> sister-in-law died of the disease at age 44, Jonathan D. Gray, the head of
> global real estate at the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm, gave
> the University of
> Pennsylvania<
> http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/health/research/basser-research-center-to-focus-on-brca-cancer-genes.html
> >$25
> million to set up a center to study female cancers.
> Melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers,
> <http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/race.htm>also strikes and kills
> whites preferentially. Debra Black, wife of the financier Leon Black,
> survived a bad scare. Soon after, the couple teamed up with Michael R.
> Milken, the former junk-bond financier, whose charity FasterCures gives
> advice on how to accelerate research, to found the Melanoma Research
> Alliance. It quickly became the world's largest private sponsor of melanoma
> research, awarding more than $50 million for work at Yale, Columbia and
> other universities.
> ............
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