Gov. Mike Pence called last week for the state to spend $1.5 million a year to create a new life-sciences-focused research institute in Indianapolis.
The institute already has received full-throated support from John Lechleiter, CEO of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. But privately, university leaders have questioned the idea as a potential competitor to the 5-year-old Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, housed at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Pence’s appropriation request for what he calls the Indiana Applied Research Enterprise is modest because he wants the institute to seek out funding from private companies and industry groups, rather than what he describes as “the traditional model of federal grant-seeking, which our universities already employ.”
Indiana’s universities now derive about 10 percent of their research funding from industry sources, one of the highest percentages in the country.
Pence, however, wants to push the state’s research institutions to do more commercialization than they have been. His campaign website notes that Purdue University ranks No. 31 and IU ranked No. 111 among global universities for number of U.S. patents generated in 2011. The University of Notre Dame is Indiana’s other research university.
“While our universities are generating a lot of new innovation, a more intensive statewide approach can better help their efforts,” the Pence website states, adding, “Currently, our universities lag other Midwestern rivals in patents … there is room for improvement given their immense research capacity and talent.”
Pence thinks the institute could improve the situation because it would operate under liberal intellectual property policies that he thinks would free up researchers to pursue innovations.
Pence's website says the institute “will seek to create the ‘Wild West’ of university-based research.”
Lechleiter, in an Oct. 23 speech about the institute idea, said Lilly would donate an unspecified amount of money to sponsor research there. He also said the pharmaceutical company would allow its scientists to participate in collaborations at the institute.
And he said Lilly would hire a new employee to seek out alliances with Indiana’s universities and create an internal scorecard to measure how many in-state alliances it is forming each year.
“Within a year, I don’t want anybody within the state to say to Lilly, ‘You guys are hard to work with,’” Lechleiter said.