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— Lerner has urged speeding up the deal with dubious statements such as, "Researchers by nature are not very patient." Oh? Patience is a bedrock virtue of scientific inquiry. Ask the Food and Drug Administration.

Lerner has made other statements that strain credulity. "Researchers remain isolated from the vagaries of the marketplace," he told the Miami Herald. "We don't have a bottom line. We don't have to worry if our stock goes up."

Balderdash. In 1992 and 1993, Craig Rose of the Union-Tribune did an excellent series on questionable Scripps activity, including a deal with Sandoz Pharmaceuticals that initially gave the company wide control over scientific activity at Scripps. Lerner became embroiled in controversy by serving as a paid consultant to Johnson & Johnson, which had an agreement to commercialize discoveries at Scripps.

Lerner may sniff that he doesn't worry about stocks going up, but he made a $900 investment in Cytel, a startup company he cofounded that had a joint venture with Scripps. Nine months later, Cytel bought those shares from Lerner for $71,000. There were other questions about shares in a Scripps/Cytel joint venture going to Scripps employees. Lerner said such fast-buck schemes were "incentivizing people."

Cytel has since morphed into a San Diego biotech named Epimmune, which to date has never made a profit or even any revenues from commercial products and has a huge cumulative deficit of $156.7 million.

It's little wonder that Lerner and Moores are so cozy. Moores, longtime Peregrine Systems chairman, sold more than $450 million of his stock during a period in which the books were cooked. During that time, he was a big donor and board member of Scripps.

"We gave him an honorary degree right in the middle of the problems with Peregrine because we wanted to weigh in and say, 'Everything you're hearing about John Moores is not the John we know,' " enthused Lerner to the Union-Tribune.

Lerner and Moores share mutual admiration -- and, apparently, strategy for extracting money from governments. Uh-oh. The next step might be for Scripps, having hornswaggled Florida, to threaten to leave San Diego unless taxpayers build a new facility here.

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