A joint statement, issued last week in a published report, states that “The University of Southern California (UCS) and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) are discussing the possibility of a relationship that would enhance the mission of both institutions. TSRI and USC have shared a commitment to academic excellence that will result in meaningful breakthroughs to improve health and well-being.”
Such a merger reportedly means USC would host one of the world's most prestigious independent life-sciences institutions and help Scripps rely less on funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), its largest underwriter. Scripps' 2012 operating budget was $398 million, 86 percent of which was funded by NIH in 2013.
Sequestration at the national level resulted in cuts of $1.7 billion and 700 research grants from NIH's budget in 2013. Its operating budget is usually around $31 billion.
Meanwhile, USC is the center of a $6 million private fundraising campaign. Since 2011, it has raised half that amount, a portion of which could go toward the Scripps purchase.
Officials at both institutions had no comment on the state of the talks.
Scripps was founded in 1924 on the inspiration of local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. It employs nearly 3,000 scientists in eight study departments, specializes in medical advances in chemistry, stem cell research and molecular biology. It has played a key role in advances against diseases such as cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2003, it announced an unprecedented expansion into Florida and built a campus in Jupiter.
The news of the discussions reportedly angered at least one Florida politician.
“I am outraged,” former GOP congressman Mark Foley told a Palm Beach newspaper, “by this announcement and find it unacceptable based on several factors, including a recent large state appropriation without any of Scripps’ people even bothering to mention that negotiations have been ongoing for some time. I think this deserves an investigation and a freezing of the state monies before a check is written.”
Meanwhile, a USC newspaper reported, ten Scripps department chairs and a dean expressed their concern about a proposed move in an email to Scripps president and chief executive officer Michael Marletta.
“[Scripps], the e-mail read, “is a singular source of biomedical advances and commercial efforts for the common good. This singular success is an outgrowth of the culture at Scripps that nurtures ideas, risk-taking and scientific entrepreneurship, and a strong sense of collaboration and collegiality. 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.”