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Talks canceled in possible USC affiliation with Scripps Research

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Opposition from Scripps Research Institute faculty may have scuttled talks on merger or affiliation with USC
Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, which produces important drugs, ends talks with USC

A possible deal for USC to acquire or enter into an affiliation with the biomedical powerhouse Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla has collapsed and talks have been formally canceled, officials said Thursday.

According to statements from both institutions, a previous agreement to discuss a possible partnership or other forms of affiliation has been “terminated” just a month after the talks were publicly confirmed. The end comes after leading faculty at Scripps announced strong opposition to a possible USC takeover, contending it might destroy their independence as researchers.

The Scripps Research Institute is an independent biomedical organization that is home to Nobel Prize-winning scientists and has helped produce important drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The 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 has experienced some financial troubles even though it receives substantial support from the National Institutes of Health and also garners licensing revenues from pharmaceutical companies that bring its discoveries to market.

A Scripps’ statement said the organization would “analyze and discuss the strategic future of Scripps, reviewing a broad range of thoughtful alternatives to choose the best path forward for the institution."

It continued: "To facilitate the holistic nature of this review, the current nonbinding letter of intent on discussions about a broad partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) has been terminated by mutual consent of both parties.”

Elizabeth Garrett, USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said in a statement that Scripps’ trustees “asked the university to terminate a joint letter of intent, and we agreed to do so.”

USC faculty often collaborate with Scripps researchers, and “we look forward to future opportunities to work together,” she added.

Neither side publicly discussed reasons for the sudden end to the discussions. But last month, 11 department chairs and other top researchers released a letter protesting a possible deal with USC.

“We believe that the proposed path with USC would destroy much of what has been built and what we and others in the community value so much,” they said.

Follow me @larrygordonlat.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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