USC in talks to buy or affiliate with Scripps

While M&A rumors continually buzz around biopharma companies, the academic institutes that play an important role in drug discovery are generally excluded from such wheeling and dealing. Yet with reliance on National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding looking like a risky strategy, the Scripps Research Institute is considering hooking up with the University of Southern California.

Scripps' La Jolla Campus--Courtesy of Scripps

U-T San Diego broke news of talks between the organizations after professors were briefed. USC and Scripps responded with a joint statement confirming they were in discussions and the Palm Beach Post later revealed the research institutes have signed a letter of intent. Full details are yet to emerge, but the basic narrative is that USC--flush after passing the halfway mark in its $6 billion fundraising campaign--can offer Scripps financial security and lessen its reliance on NIH.

The outcome of the discussions has implications for genomics and the broader biopharma IT space, areas in which Scripps is actively involved. Over the past few years the La Jolla-based research institute has investigated the use of online games in disease research, used a network of two million PCs to try to crack malaria and played a role in multiple important genomics projects. Affiliating with USC would raise questions about the future of the scientific-culture that nurtured such projects.

In the 'pros' column of the debate, USC's financial could partially free Scripps researchers from the scramble for federal dollars. And Scripps would gain access to a medical school and clinical trial partner, both of which could help its discoveries advance out of the lab.

- here's the U-T scoop
- read Palm Beach Post's take