Only after a reporter complained to the UC conflict of interest office did Dynes file an amended statement in January 2000 that revealed his wife's interest in two Warren Hellman investment partnerships, Hellman & Friedman Management III and Locust Street Group III, L.P., each valued at more than $100,000, plus millions more in common stocks, such as EchoStar Communications, Convergys Corporation, and Forest Laboratories.

When later asked why his initial filing had omitted Frances Hellman's assets, the chancellor of UCSD said, "I didn't at the time know -- I had just recently gotten married -- and so originally it just had my own on there, and after questions it was made clear to me that I had to include my wife's, which I didn't realize." And why, once he discovered that he was required to list his wife's assets, did he delay filing the amendment? "It just took time," Dynes replied. "I asked some people to work through it all, to work out the forms, and it just took time to do that. No other reason than just bureaucracy."

Dynes had become UCSD chancellor during a time of major change in university philosophy. Cutbacks in taxpayer support and new federal laws encouraging so-called public-private partnerships between venture capitalists and faculty members had given rise to a money-driven research culture. No longer did scientists design experiments only to test accepted theories or laws. Instead, research had to have a financial payoff.

The turning point had come in 1980 with the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, which gave universities patent rights to inventions that their faculty members had developed using federal grants. "The university generally retains the patent to a given innovation, licenses it for a fee to one or more commercial enterprises, and industry then attempts to use the invention to develop profitable products," explains Dr. Jerome Kassirer in his book On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health.

"In turn, for their involvement in generating the invention or discovery and helping to develop a marketable product, profits that derive from licensing the patent are required by law to be shared with the inventor." Thus, adds Kassirer, professor at Tufts University medical school, adjunct professor at Yale medical school, and editor in chief for more than eight years of the New England Journal of Medicine, "The academic scientist, lured by the promise of royalties, became an entrepreneur, and universities became more like big businesses than centers for learning how to cure the sick."

The problem gets even worse, Kassirer maintains, when corporations directly fund university research. "Financial incentives can and do influence how study questions are framed and the very design of experiments. Studies show that industry preferentially supports trial designs that favor positive results." Other pitfalls of the new relationship between corporations and universities, he notes, "include withholding information to delay dissemination of an undesirable result, and keeping research results secret even beyond the time needed to file patents, presumably to protect proprietary information."

"The very nature of the contractual relationship between physician investigators and drug companies can be problematic," Kassirer says. "As a condition of the contract, researchers may be forced to sign away their right to monitor and control data, to analyze the data, and even to notify institutional overseers if something goes wrong."

A complacent local press encouraged the shift at UCSD. "Some regents refer to 'the Atkinson miracle' as he and his successor, Bob Dynes, have made UCSD a revolutionary new research university studied and envied around the world," wrote U-T columnist Neil Morgan in December 2001. "It embodies a quiet revolution from the identity-challenged 1960s: Gushers of private-public funding as universities and industry seek to probe jointly the world's course amid chaotic change."

Smart operators swarmed onto the La Jolla campus, opening their checkbooks for enterprising faculty members who might come up with the next "killer application" -- an invention that would make the professors and their investors rich.

Two early examples of what was to come were Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi. In 1968 Jacobs, a professor of engineering at UCSD, and Viterbi, a professor of engineering at UCLA, started Linkabit, a small electronics company specializing in then-esoteric satellite communications software used by the Pentagon.

Linkabit was sold in 1980. Five years later, Jacobs and Viterbi set up a fledgling venture with several former Linkabit employees. Viterbi joined the faculty of UCSD's engineering school in 1985, the same year that the new company was born. Its name was Qualcomm.

For the next nine years, during the critical period in which the firm perfected its cell-phone patents, Viterbi remained a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UCSD. During this period, he filed many patent applications for the new technology used by Qualcomm.

In 1991, UCSD chancellor Richard Atkinson became a Qualcomm board member. Over the years, as Qualcomm grew and the value of its stock soared into the stratosphere, so did Atkinson's personal fortune. By January 2000, Atkinson, still a board member, owned Qualcomm shares worth $238 million, based on a company filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

In late 1999, a reporter questioned whether some of the cell-phone patents owned by Qualcomm had been misappropriated from the university. The pervasive influence of the new culture of money was evidenced in a confidential report drafted by top UC officials in October.

"During the winter of 2000, allegations arose from a segment of the media regarding compliance with the University of California Patent Policy by a former professor at UCSD, Dr. Andrew J. Viterbi," said the report, authored by Robert Shelton, the university's vice provost for research; David Miller, its associate vice chancellor; and Terence A. Feuerborn, who had recently retired as the university's officer in charge of technology transfer. "The specific allegations involved questions regarding the ownership of a patent that was issued in 1992 listing Dr. Viterbi as a co-inventor.

"The patent in question is entitled 'System and Method for Generating Signal Waveforms in a CDMA Cellular Telephone System.' Qualcomm, Inc. is identified as the owner. The allegations assert that Dr. Viterbi, as a faculty member at the time of the invention, should have reported the invention to the University and that the University may have some rights to the issued patent. It was further asserted that the technology embodied in the patent contributed significantly to the financial success of Qualcomm, and that the University should have shared in that success."

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Join our newsletter list for
$5 off your next purchase
on our daily deal site,