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People Who Get Rich Privatizing Academia Explain Why it's a Good Idea

Weill Cornell Medical College last week accepted $100 million from the Weill Family Foundation to help "translate research breakthroughs into innovative treatments and therapies for patients.” More precisely: A college dean who also served on the board of a big-pharma firm while it defrauded Medicaid, bribed physicians, promoted off-label use of anti-psychotics and sent a library full of FDA regulations out with the garbage allowed one of the subprime mortgage crisis’s chief engineers to buy $100 million worth of the school.

Cornell dean and Bristol-Myers Squibb director Laurie Glimcher appeared on CNBC alongside ex-Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill to discuss the orchestration of this huge gift. There was a copious amount of smiling involved. 

The duo discussed the significant decline of federal financial support for medical research. The solution is obvious for academics like Glimcher who are cozy with corporate interest as warm milk: Wall Street should run academia and the universe for that matter.

Glimcher has lauded public-private funding collaborations in medical research since she took the Cornell deanship in 2011. Speaking with The New York Times about her own ties to pharma and biotech, Glimcher said that from her perspective, they

presented no conflict as long as they were transparent. She [Glimcher] said she wanted to “leverage the strengths of everyone,” whether scientists, pharmaceutical companies or biotechnology companies. “There should be no silos between all of these different strengths."

The Cornell dean’s enthusiasm for the destruction of public-private "silos" could have to do with the fact that she’s become fantastically wealthy perpetuating it. According to SEC filings, she’s made over a million dollars as a director at Squibb and nearly another million in a similar position at Waters Corporation, a lab equipment manufacturer. That’s between 2009 and 2012 alone.

Glimcher has also recently held positions at a number of other similar companies and holds stock in several of them. She cashed out 100,000 Squibb market shares for a total of almost $4.4 million at the beginning of this month.

Add to the treasure chest whatever Cornell pays her. Medical school deans made an average of $452,400 at doctorate-granting colleges like hers in 2012, according to Chronicle of Higher Education.

I would happily consult Laurie Glimcher's expertise regarding the rheumatoid arthritis to which I’m genetically predisposed, or my fresh-cut-grass induced asthma. These issues fall within the realm of her academic expertise. But if good reasons for public-private partnerships in the academic community exist, and surely they do, the world's Glimchers are the last people I want explaining them to me.