CORVALLIS - A new 3-year, $2 million research project at two Oregon universities will examine the increasingly close working relationships between the nation's research universities and private biotechnology companies, the products that evolve from this collaboration and whether the process benefits the public.

Experts from Oregon State University and Portland State University will be co-principal investigators on the project, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. The project will also include researchers and educators from UC-Davis, Clarkson University, the Wallace Center for Agricultural and Environmental Policy, and the Farm Foundation.

At OSU, the outreach and education components of the project will be coordinated by the university's Program for the Analysis of Biotechnology Issues. This initiative, directed by Terri Lomax, a professor of botany and plant pathology, studies issues relating to the use of biotechnology in agriculture, forestry, biomedicine and other areas and works to raise the level of public awareness and knowledge about these topics.

"University research traditionally has been for the good of the public, and with the growing relationships between academia and private biotechnology companies it's important we examine what is going on and how the results affect the public," said Lomax, who will be a co-principal investigator on this grant along with Steven Buccola, an OSU professor of agricultural and resource economics. "We need to take a hard and honest look at these relationships."

The study will look at the social and economic motivations for universities that work in the field of biotechnology; the long-term effects of their relationships with private industry; and the manner in which biotech research is planned, coordinated and rewarded.

The study will include extensive interviews of university and industry experts, a survey of scientists, technology officers and administrators, and a development of socio-economic models of biotechnology research. Two workshops, state and national policy briefings, and a national conference will also be included in the project.

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Terri Lomax, 541-737-5278