USC is in talks to acquire or affiliate with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, the independent biomedical organization that is home to Nobel-winning scientists and has helped produce important drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The Los Angeles-based university and the nonprofit research institute released a joint statement Tuesday confirming that discussions are underway but officials declined to specify what the final goal of those talks are or say when they might be completed.
"The University of Southern California (USC) and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) are discussing the possibility of a relationship that would enhance the missions of both institutions. TSRI and USC have a shared commitment to academic excellence that will result in meaningful breakthroughs to improve health and well-being," the statement said.
Bolstered by a massive fundraising campaign, USC has been adding faculty in biomedical, chemistry and neuroscience fields that mesh well with Scripps' work.
The Scripps Research Institute, which also has a second campus in Jupiter, Fla., employs nearly 2,900 scientists and other employees and had a $398 million budget in 2012. It receives substantial support from the National Institutes of Health for projects in basic research and also garners licensing revenue from pharmaceutical companies that bring its discoveries to market. It also trains graduate students in biology and neuroscience.
The news of the possible affiliation was first published Tuesday by the Union-Tribune of San Diego. That article suggested that Scripps is worried about potential reductions in federal grants and the costs of developing its five-year-old campus in Florida.
Some officials close to the situation cautioned that a deal was not imminent. They recalled how USC had been in negotiations for some kind of partnership or merger with the Museum of Contemporary Art two years ago and that those discussions went nowhere and the museum remained independent.
Among the well-known drugs that began at Scripps Research are Humira for rheumatoid arthritis and Benlysta for lupus. The faculty includes two Nobelists in chemistry: K. Barry Sharpless, who won in 2001, and Kurt Wüthrich in 2002.