Show and tell: Ventura

by Coralie Carlson

Gov. Jesse Ventura came face-to-face with a University-produced freak show of genetic engineering Monday morning: “Tiger,” a brown and black striped mouse.
Tiger, along with a bald mouse created without an immune system, welcomed the governor on a tour of the Cancer Research Center. University doctors used the mice, microscopes and a placenta to demonstrate their cancer research.
Last month, Ventura proposed using part of the state’s tobacco settlement to create a medical research endowment at the University — an idea Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center, readily supports.
The $350 million endowment, managed by the University’s Minnesota Medical Foundation, would accrue $39 million in interest as revenue for the next year.
Ventura also suggested adding $100 million to the Medical Education and Research Costs endowment, which helps fourth- and fifth-year students finance their schooling.
Although University officials support the plan, state House Republicans insist the money should be returned to the taxpayers.
Ventura called the Republican tax-relief plan “short-sighted” and said it would give each Minnesotan about $200 — money to spend on cigarettes, he said.
“Maybe (Republicans) should have been the ones taking the tour,” Ventura said. “I didn’t need any convincing.”
But Ventura said he remains hopeful the University endowment plan will prevail in the state Legislature. Minnesotans support medical research over tax breaks, he said, and they will pressure their elected officials to fall into line.
During the tour, University officials paraded their best and brightest researchers.
In addition to the mice, which Dr. Dan Vallera genetically designed, Ventura was exposed to a human placenta. The placenta hung on a hammock-shaped piece of equipment with the umbilical cord hanging down. Dr. John Wagner explained to the governor how he used the placenta for blood transfusions.
Cerra said Ventura’s tour was one of a series of visitations by community leaders. Heath Commissioner Jan Malcom accompanied the governor on Wednesday.