Regents hear plans for Mayo, U research

Jake Weyer

Academic Health Center officials presented detailed plans to the Board of Regents on Thursday for a partnership between the University and Mayo Clinic.

The partnership, which has been in the making for approximately two years, will allow the institutions to collaborate on biotechnology and medical genomics research.

University officials said the partnership could attract more students to the University and improve its reputation. It could also be a boost to the state’s health care and economy.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for the University, for Mayo and the state,” said Christine Maziar, University executive vice president and provost.

The partnership is expected to become official in the next six months, said Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center.

The state provided $2 million and each institution committed $1 million to begin the partnership in June. The money currently funds joint research projects by faculty members from the University and Mayo Clinic, Cerra said. Researchers will also seek National Institutes of Health grants for these initial joint projects to show the two institutions can work together.

In 2005, the institutions will request $70 million in state funding to be disbursed over of five years, beginning in fiscal year 2006, which is July 2005.

The money will be used to hire faculty, lab technicians and others, Cerra said. The University has no plans for new buildings, but the Mayo Clinic, which lacks space, is exploring building options, he said.

Because the $70 million will be dispersed over five years, Maziar said she does not think Gov. Tim Pawlenty is taking a big risk, despite the state’s current budget deficit.

Both the state and the University are making a wise investment, she said.

“We don’t see this as a risky venture at all in terms of financial activities,” Maziar said. “We have very high expectations of success. The real risk here is one of face and reputation.”

Cerra said the research projects are under way and he expects them to be completed by early or mid-October.

When the partnership is complete, University officials hope to sell research results in the state. Officials also hope the partnership will produce enough valuable medical research to draw interest from out of state. The new partnership could also attract additional federal funding, Cerra said.

According to the report presented to the regents, many states, including Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, have created similar partnerships.