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COL Prospects are bright for Mayo-U of M partnership

Research benefits outlined of biotechology venture

Officials of Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota are optimistic that scientific collaboration between the two institutions will bring rewards to both and to the state as a whole.

Mayo and the U of M have formed the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, with encouragement and financial assistance from the state of Minnesota.

In a recent interview in Rochester, the officials said the goal is to take advantage of the specific strengths of each partner in pursuing new knowledge in genomics and biotechnology. Dr. Hugh Smith, chairman of Mayo's board of governors, and Dr. Mark Paller, assistant vice president for research at the U of M's Academic Health Center, reviewed plans for the partnership. Paller participated via a teleconference call.

They agreed that Mayo has a unique capacity for relating medical research to treatment of patients, as well as an unparalleled digital database of more than 4 million confidential patient records and 10 million tissue/serum samples that could be used in future research. Smith said no other institution has a similar database and it is one that cannot be replicated.

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The University of Minnesota has a large corps of scientists in a variety of disciplines and massive computing power that is needed in genomics research. It also has made major investments in molecular and cellular biology research.

In addition, Mayo and the U of M together received $700 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and from other sources in 2002. That amount ranks them No. 5 in the United States among medical institutions in the amount of research grants received.

A successful research partnership can benefit Minnesota in many ways:

It will result in creation of highly skilled research-related jobs.

It will give Minnesotans quick access to new discoveries in diagnosis and treatment of disease.

It will foster creation of spin-off businesses through commercial use of scientific discoveries.

It will continue to attract patients from around the country and around the world.

Smith and Paller predicted the collaboration could produce 4,000 new jobs in the next five years and add up to 150 inventions and up to 50 patents. They also expect to receive an additional $100 million in research grants.

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The state of Minnesota is expected to provide $2 million in operating funds to the partnership in the next two years and Mayo and the U of M will contribute $1 million each. The state also is prepared to spend $30 million on a new genomics research building for Mayo in Rochester and $10 million for its equipment. The building is expected to be built on or near the downtown Mayo campus, although no site has been selected.

Smith said the research is expected to discover new ways to refine diagnostic methods and to prevent disease, resulting in more individualized treatment and lower health costs.

The first phase of the partnership will involve selection of a collaborative project in one of three areas -- oncology, neurologic disease or cardiovascular disease. It also will include development of Internet2, a direct link between the Mayo Clinic and the U of M for research use. The partners also will seek a federal research grant to support their work and will develop a detailed plan for Phase 2.

The Rochester area will be a major beneficiary of the partnership. Area residents will benefit from creation of new jobs and new industries and from improved treatment resulting from medical discoveries. The project will have a similar effect on the state of Minnesota.

Mayo and the U of M have contributed much to the state in the past. It makes sense to combine their strengths in a partnership aimed at improving the nation's health.

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