Regents Split on Research Center's Future, Punt Decision to UH President

Courtesy of Tricia Murata

UPDATED 5/19/11 4:46 p.m.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents is split on whether to close a major biosciences research unit that has been an incubator for major medical centers on campus.

The board on Thursday voted 7-7 on the issue, which now heads to UH President M.R.C. Greenwood who will break the tie and decide how to proceed.

"We'll now proceed on how we can resolve it," Greenwood said following the vote at the board's monthly meeting. Its unclear when a decision will be made.

The Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) spawned major UH institutions, including the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii.

The center brings in $6 million in competitive federal research grants, but that money doesn't cover all of the center's costs. Operating the center and supporting PRBC's 30 permanent faculty and staff costs the university about $3 million a year. UH Manoa officials say they want to close the center because it is no longer the unique research center it once was — it does a lot of the same research as other departments.

Dave Au, PBRC's administrative officer who opposed the closure, told Civil Beat he wasn't sure how to react to the tied vote.

"It definitely buys us some time, but it could be viewed as a face-saving measure for the board," he said. He noted that Greenwood has previously declined requests to meet with PBRC staff on the issue.

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