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FIDIA-GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE FOR THE NEUROSCIENCES

Executive Summary

FIDIA-GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE FOR THE NEUROSCIENCES will target five research areas, according to an outline of the institute's research program distributed at a Nov. 1 press briefing in Washington, D.C. Institute scientists in the research program will focus their efforts on exploring molecular mechanisms of synaptic signal transduction, chemical modulation of gap junction, neuronal communication defects in anxiety and depression, molecular bases of brain aging, and changes in synaptic transmission triggered by opiate abuse. The institute, headed by former National Institute of Mental Health researcher Erminio Costa, is a joint research venture between the Italian pharmaceutical firm Fidia and Georgetown University. Fidia is providing $3 mil. per year for 20 years to establish the institute, and Georgetown plans to construct a laboratory for the facility on its medical center campus. The institute is divided into six research units -- molecular biology, neurochemistry electrophysiology, neuropharmacology, neurohistochemistry and organic chemistry -- and when fully staffed is expected to employ approximately 50 people. Costa and the institute's principal investigators all hold faculty appointments by the Georgetown University. Under the terms of the joint agreement, which was finalized last July, Fidia will hold the rights to any patents resulting from the institute's research, with the university and drug firm dividing any revenues from licensing. However, Georgetown University Medical Center Vice Chancellor John Rose stressed that the institute is not expected to pursue "commercial objectives." Rose said: "That's not what we're interested in. We are interested in fundamental research." He added that the institute would not conduct "any practical drug development." Rose is a member of the institute's board of directors. Fidia's contribution to the institute represents about 15% of the firm's current research budget, Rose said he hoped that outside funding would eventually "exceed" the amount of support provided by the Italian drug company. "Fidia is providing core support, and we would expect the institute to grow far beyond that," stated Rose. He added that the institute's researchers would be applying for grant support from NIH and the National Science Foundation, "just as other university investigators do." In addition to its research agenda, the institute hopes to sponsor research fellows from France, New Zealand, Israel, England, Ghana, Russia, Poland, Venezuela, and Argentina, as well as from the U.S. and Italy. It also plans to establish a series of Fidia Research Foundation lectures that will be awarded yearly to prominent neuroscientists. Other, similar university-industry joint research agreements include a 1981 grant for more than $65 mil. from Hoechst to Massachusetts General Hospital to establish a molecular biology department, and a $120 mil. endowment by Technicon founder Edwin Whitehead to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to establish a biomedical research institute. Last fall, Serono, a subsidiary of the Ares Group, announced a $1.5 mil. grant for human embryo research to Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
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