Romancing the Genome

The love story that may spark Arizona's New Economy.

Others are far more skeptical. IGC plans to put all of its information on the Internet — for free use. While this may be wonderful for researchers worldwide, it makes Arizona simply the host for a very expensive genomics Web site. ABBI, meanwhile, will be competing with research centers worldwide to create marketable products, with no guarantee of success.

IGC suddenly appeared on the political landscape last winter, at about the same time political leaders were caoming under increasing fire for failing to restructure Arizona's low-wage economy, driven for decades by real estate speculation.

After a meeting with Mallery in January, Governor Jane Hull seized upon IGC as a "legacy" project for her administration and dispatched the state Department of Commerce to ensure funding would be available for IGC and ABBI.

Francie Mallery
Francie Mallery
Governor Jane Hull says the International Genomics Consortium is the biggest economic event to hit Arizona since Motorola arrived after World War II.
Governor Jane Hull says the International Genomics Consortium is the biggest economic event to hit Arizona since Motorola arrived after World War II.

IGC was quickly embraced as the high-profile, intellectually driven project that that would symbolize Arizona's commitment to becoming a significant player in the "New Economy."

Not only did the Legislature earmark $30 million for genomics at the same time it was cutting $1 billion from the budget, Mallery's IGC initiative triggered the three state universities to set aside longstanding animosity and distrust to work together to create ABBI.

Ironically, politicians are pinning their hopes for economic transformation on a project being promoted by a man who made his fortune, and the fortunes of others, in real estate speculation.

Mallery is an icon of Arizona's notorious, fast-buck, cutthroat real estate economy.

During his long career, he has had his share of eyebrow-raising deals as a senior partner at Arizona's most prominent law firm, Snell & Wilmer.

He was nearly indicted by federal prosecutors during the Symington criminal investigation. Mallery was Symington's longtime real estate attorney and close friend. Symington was convicted of bank and wire fraud related to his real estate development business in 1997 and forced to resign as governor. (He was later pardoned by President Clinton.)

In the 1980s, Mallery was ensnared in two high-profile, publicly financed projects in which he stood to make a private gain.

But now Mallery finds himself in a different time personally — a time of mourning and reflection. There is no indication that Mallery's current effort to bring IGC to Arizona is motivated by anything but the highest calling. There is reason, nonetheless, to be cautious, as the state moves forward in forging a possible long-term partnership.

Can IGC and ABBI live up to their billing as economic catalysts?

Is IGC's genomic research really revolutionary?

Will taxpayers directly benefit from any profits resulting from the research?

Will IGC deliver on its promise to conduct gene studies on 10,000 tumors?

Incredibly, Mallery has raised nearly $100 million in public and foundation monies, and yet the final terms of the deal — who will share in what— have yet to be negotiated.

IGC is now in its most powerful bargaining position to attract millions of dollars in public, private and pharmaceutical funds. The consortium says it won't come to Arizona unless the biosciences institutes that will be run by IGC's Trent get another $20 million in start-up capital.

Mallery is doing what he loves most — putting together a deal. He is carefully playing his hand to get the most money he can on the genomics table.

"I'm doing brinkmanship," he says. "But in a nice sort of way."

Richard Mallery and his wife Francie were true partners with widely different interests.

He is the man of letters, a self-described "fuzzy".

She was the "techie" — with a passion for nutrition and biochemistry.

Their wide divergence of expertise was in fact a magnet that tightly bound the two in everything they did.

"We really were inseparable," Mallery says of his wife of 38 years.

She learned law and actively participated in his activities.

And he learned about diet and biochemistry — at least enough to be conversant on the subjects.

Cancer struck Francie like a lightening bolt. All her relatives had lived into their 80s and 90s. She was healthy and very fit.

"It was just a stunner for both of us," Mallery says.

She was stricken with a rare and very aggressive form of gynecological cancer. The cancer wasn't discovered until she underwent surgery. Discovery of cancer was shocking enough, but also troubling was the way the surgery was conducted, Mallery says.

"The surgeon who did the surgery on her threw away all the tumor," he says.

Tossing cancerous tumors is standard practice — but it is a policy, Mallery says, that he immediately realized is a mistake.

"I came out of that (operation) with a sense it was a missed opportunity."

The cancerous tissue, Mallery explains, could have been studied to determine in more detail the type of cancer his wife was facing.

Mallery started investigating how cancerous tissues are studied and was disappointed by what he discovered. Tumors are sometimes given to private tissue banks that do little to cooperate on the research they conduct and the insights they gain.

"I found that the for-profit tissue banks don't talk to each other," Mallery says.

More important, he adds, is that tissue research banks view cancerous tumors as their property.

"As a lawyer and somebody who has been involved in public policy, I thought, 'Hey, they don't own the tissue. We own the tissue. She grew the tissue. We own it.'"

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