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Home > McGill News > 2001 > Spring 2001 > Letters

Familiar faces

Thanks for the wonderful Homecoming picture of Mary Jane Puiu and Rita DePierro (Winter 2000/01).

Ms. DePierro was also my algebra teacher in high school and the best teacher I had.

I still remember her classes and how much I learned in them. She hasn't changed a bit! Mary Jane and I also went through school together.

What a joy to see two great people again. Thanks for bringing back very fond memories for me.

Judi (Dove) Oswald, BMus'72, DipEd'73
via e-mail

Support for tech transfer


Your article on technology transfer, "Taking McGill to market" by Patrick McDonagh in the Winter 2000/01 issue, seems to present a balanced and sober picture of the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) at McGill. However, I wonder if the potential benefits of commercializing university inventions are somewhat understated.

While it is true that most technology transfer offices in the U.S. and Canada do not generate large profits for their institutions according to MIT's Lita Nelsen (see www.sciencemag.org/ cgi/content/full/279/5356/1460), it is also true that some universities have received significant income from royalties.

Florida State University, to name just one, gained in 1998 an amount equal to 42% of its US $112 million research budget for its patents on the cancer drug Taxol (see www.techreview.com/magazine/jul00/zacks.asp).

Considering that successful patents often take up to 10 years to generate revenues and that U.S. institutions have been aggressively marketing their inventions for less than 20 years, it should not be surprising that only a few are reaping substantial rewards. This is doubly true in Canada where such efforts are even more recent. Therefore, it is likely that revenues from commercialization of inventions will become more important for most universities in the next decade.

Perhaps more importantly, aggressive licensing of intellectual property benefits a university's surrounding community by providing high-paying and stimulating jobs in growing sectors of the economy. This type of activity also benefits the country by providing challenging jobs for its highly educated workforce.

A healthy and well-funded technology licensing office can be extremely valuable for a university and its local economy. McGill's OTT seems to be performing encouragingly well despite limited resources. As a result of your article, I am considering directing to the OTT my next alumnus donation. Can I do that?

Simon Delagrave, BSc'91
Avondale, Pa.

Ed. note: Simon Delagrave and the OTT will be glad to hear that graduates and friends of McGill who wish to donate to the University may ask that their gift be directed to any area or department -- even to the modest endowment fund established by the McGill News! Of course, gifts may also be undesignated, which allows the University to fund some needs which have been identified as urgent -- student aid or library collections, for example. Funds which are unrestricted also give McGill the flexibility to follow up on good ideas and opportunities. The unique and multidisciplinary School of Environment was established in 1998, largely with the help of donations made to the Alma Mater Fund.

AIDS cause questioned

I was interested in the interview held with Dr. Mark Wainberg (Winter 2000/01). On the question of his attitude to critics who believe that HIV may not be the cause of AIDS, I found his response intriguing.

In effect: call them a fringe group, endow anti-HIV drugs with unsubstantiated life-saving powers, and put the critics behind bars!

Scientific proofs are generally not easy to come by and may need patience to explain. In this case, I would have preferred to read a more serious treatment of the subject, mentioning the complexities of the problem such as the data recently reported by Dr. Aruba, head of the Quebec Health Department (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 1, 2000). Even with "new treatments we're not curing people of AIDS," he stated. Also, the fact that the incidence of HIV is rapidly increasing, while deaths from AIDS have sharply declined, suggests that other hypotheses might reasonably be entertained.

Samuel W. Levy, PhD'54
Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Ed. note: Dr. Wainberg is not alone.

The Durban Declaration affirming HIV as the cause of AIDS is endorsed by a coalition of 5,000 of the world's leading scientists and doctors, including 11 Nobel Prize laureates. An excerpt from the declaration states that the evidence linking HIV and AIDS is "clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous, meeting the highest standards of science. As with any other chronic infection, various factors have a role in determining the risk of disease. People who are malnourished, who already suffer other infections or who are older, tend to be more susceptible to the rapid development of AIDS following HIV infection. However, none of these factors weakens the scientific evidence that HIV is the sole cause of the AIDS epidemic."

Credit where it's due


We are pleased that you published our proposed design for the future IT building (Newsbites, Winter 2000/01), but we are somewhat disappointed at not being properly credited for it.

This design is the result of our conceptual/feasibility study, unveiled and presented to Mr. Lorne Trottier, and as architects (one of the partners was educated and later taught as a visiting professor at McGill) we are proud of it. We would like to be properly credited as: Conceptual study by Vecsei Architects.

André Vecsei, MArch'73
Montreal, Que.

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