We checked out of the hotel this morning and headed to our meeting at the North Carolina Biotechnology Centre. Yes, you’ve already heard about them – I was there previously, meeting with Steven Burke. Today we met with a wider range of people working in the centre, including on their education programmes, their small loans to businesses and their research grants. It’s interesting that they are taking this on in public private partnership way, providing grants for education (mainly university and community college, but also K-12) and research. We had a discussion about acceptance of GMs in Europe – they also look at public acceptance and communication efforts. They do some interesting things with schools, including workshops for teachers, equipment made available to schools to teach aspects of biotechnology and so on. Over lunch (pasta with tomato sauce, I was in heaven!) I talked to Rudy Juliano, who is a cancer researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill, but has also got involved in science policy at the state level. Really interesting guy. We talked about some of the challenges and the similarities of science policy in the US and Europe. The thing is, there’s a lot more in common than it may seem. Just like in Europe the states have enormous freedom to pursue their own science policy – look what North Carolina has done with the Research Triangle Park and this Biotech Centre. And the challenge is how to make that work at a national level. the difference of course is the sheer volume of federal funding via the National Science Foundation. But that was referred to as “over-the-wall” funding, where there is little accompaniment. The states can look at the science they support within a context to the extent that is not possible at federal level.
The morning was a little perturbed by the news that American Airlines was cancelling most of its flilghts today as a result of this on-going maintenance hoo-ha. But in the end, the flight was not only on time, unheard of for US internal flights in my experience, but it arrived early! I picked up a car at the airport and drove for the first time in the US! Gil deserves some danger money for even getting in the car with me, but I think it’s going to be OK tomorrow. The guy who is arranging my visit to Monsanto tomorrow met me and we had a very nice dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. Then headed back to the hotel and met up briefly with Sam and Gil.
So time to head to bed I suppose to prepare for tomorrow, and deal with the time change – I’m heading West!