Biotech report dubbed 'worthless'

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Research directors at Israel's universities say that an upcoming government-sponsored report on biotechnology policy will be worthless because they were not consulted by its authors.

“The authors of the report are completely unaware of the reorganization the universities have undergone to take into account the needs of high-tech,” says Yair Aharonowitz, vice-president and dean for research at Tel Aviv University.

Aharonowitz and colleagues at five other universities sent a letter of protest to Carmel Vernia, chief scientist at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Earlier this year Vernia commissioned a report on the state of Israel's biotechnology industry from the Monitor Group, a consulting firm. Although Monitor has until the end of the year to submit its report, the Israeli press has reported that it will call for the diversion of money from basic research to work with clearer commercial potential.

Any such diversion would be a “gross error”, Menachem Magidor, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, declared in a recent interview. Aharonowitz says that Monitor got all its information from industry, and made no contact with five of the six Israeli universities with life-science faculties.

Vernia declined to comment, but a spokesman said that he had “recommended that Monitor meet with the research vice-presidents towards the conclusion of the process of writing its report”.

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