Why Chromosomes?

The secret economics of genomics

Black Hole

The Spike has been most interested in the state's effort to snag the International Genomics Consortium project even though The Spike has only the vaguest notion of what a genome is.

Still, even The Spike has been able to grasp that this is another of those projects that requires a considerable amount of taxpayer cash to make it happen. And it's another example of the public being asked to open its proverbial checkbook largely on faith.

So The Spike asked for a copy of the detailed financial report prepared by consultants for the state. What emerged was a document that was so heavily redacted it's impossible to tell whether the citizenry's hard-earned cash would be well-spent.

Most of the 100 pages in the report, which is in the possession of the state Department of Commerce and would seem to be a public record, look like the sample pictured above -- page after page of blacked-out financial data. No wonder it took the agency several days to cough up the report; The Spike thinks state censors must have had to make more than one trip to the supply closet for the black pens it took to cover up this one.

Here's what The Spike did glean from a few summary sheets left mostly intact:

The report was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers at the behest of the Arizona Board of Regents; the genome project is under the wing of the state's universities.

The genome project has a name and it's ABBI, which stands for the Arizona Bioscience and Biomedicine Institute.

PwC (as it calls itself these days) was asked to "develop a high-level financial model to help the various stakeholders involved with the development of ABBI to better understand the nature, level and timing of investments that might be required to develop ABBI," according to the report.

PwC estimates it will take $120 million in mostly public money for startup capital and the first five years of operation. In The Spike's book, that makes the public the biggest of the "stakeholders" who need to better understand the project. (See blacked-out report pictured herein.)

Here's a clue, based on a sentence that was somehow missed by the black-pen crowd. The complex financial model we the people paid PwC to prepare estimates that after the first five years, ABBI would have an "annual operating deficit of between $7 million and $8 million in perpetuity." The Spike reads that to mean in the red forever.

The report notes that additional revenue streams would have to be found, and directs the reading public to page 41 for a discussion of those ideas. This page includes a generic run-down of the usual suspects: endowments from rich people and rich corporations, further state support, other partnerships and strategic alliances.

But (what a surprise) the paragraph that begins: "Investigation of other potential creative sources of funding, such as . . ." is blacked out entirely after the "such as." The Spike can only guess at what the string-pullers think is so "creative" they can't disclose it.

Swatting at Big Flies

In other business news, The Spike just has to make fun of this brilliant idea from Snell & Wilmer, the Valley's bluest of blue-blood law firms that works for the biggest of businesses.

It seems the downtown firm has formed a legal SWAT team (yes indeedy, that's their own acronym), ready to swing into action whenever the corporate world needs saving.

This from the actual press release the firm sent out:

"Snell & Wilmer has created the Snell & Wilmer Action Team (SWAT) composed of experienced business attorneys on call at each of the firm's six Western offices who are trained to handle potentially high-risk business legal issues on short notice."

What might those risky emergencies be, The Spike wonders? The latest shredding problem? Missing 401(k) money? A questionable audit? Toxic waste spill?

Gosh, The Spike thought lawyers were still turning up their noses at their brethren who stoop to advertising for clients. Sounds like The Swat Team might be headed for late-night TV along with The Eagle and The Wolf.

Bad Call

In his memorable victory speech at Bank One Ballpark last November, jubilant (some might say besotted) Arizona Diamondbacks player Mark "Lord of the Rings" Grace mocked the New York Yankees' self-proclaimed "mystique" and "aura" with two words of his own: "TROPHY!" "RING!"

The crowd went wild, as Gracie's teammates tried in vain to maintain a smidgen of decorum. Ironically, The Speech may be the lifetime .300 hitter's most enduring legacy.

Someone came up with a cool idea of giving away 50,000 replicas of baseball's coveted World Championship rings on the same night last week as the official rings presentation to the players and staff.

Looked great on paper. Unfortunately, it resulted in a suicide squeeze of fans determined to get their rings outside BOB before the game. There was no way The Spike and thousands of others were going make it through the crush to see the official rings ceremony, let alone the first pitch, or even the first inning.

So The Spike took an intentional walk -- to the ballpark's Front Row Sports Grill, an elevator ride to BOB's upper reaches and a bird's eye view of the start of the game -- on television.

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