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UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann addresses the UC Regents
UCSF proposes greater autonomy from the UC system
The University of California, San Francisco was founded in 1873 as a medical college. In recent decades, it has become a world-leader in translational biomedical research. The campus depends largely on external grants and industry partners for financial support. Relationships with industry are a crucial part of both its mission and its operating realities.
In the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, the scientific landscape was transformed by UCSF faculty connections to industry. Cornerstone technologies in biotechnology were generated by research conducted in the UCSF's Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Herb Boyer invented recombinant DNA technology as an assistant professor in the Department (in collaboration with Stanford's Stanley Cohen). Department Chair Bill Rutter was also involved in early experimentation with recombinant DNA, and later turned university-based work on hepatitis into life-saving products at Chiron Corporation. This model of translational research is still in place and proving fruitful. Technologies developed at UCSF have formed the basis of approximately 90 life science companies, including 42 startups surrounding the university's new Mission Bay campus.
Today, following the financial crisis of 2008, and the subsequent deep recession, the University of California is struggling financially. UCSF’s ties to the larger system are becoming burdensome. The San Francisco campus contributes $49 million of its $4 billion budget to support it. While system-wide tuition increases have eased burdens at other UC campuses, they have done little for UCSF which receives only 1% of its revenue from student fees. In fact, only 5% of UCSF’s revenues come from the state and only 15% of the faculty receive state funding.
To address UCSF’s budgetary challenges, UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann recently proposed changes to UCSF’s relationship with the UC system at a meeting of the UC Regents. By 2015, UCSF’s projected expenses are expected to overwhelm its revenues. Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann is confident that the proposed plan will enable UCSF “to best position itself to meet the challenges of a 21st century academic medical center.” Under the alternate plan, UCSF would have its own board of directors comprised of leaders from the medical sciences and biotechnology.
Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann emphasized that the new plan is right for UCSF now and in the future: “What is at stake is our ability to deliver on our public mission and serve the people of California … We need to make changes to UCSF’s business model to reach our aspirations of pre-eminence."