Betting On Biotech

Some states use lotteries to finance vital needs that could not be met by their annual budgets. One state, for example, might earmark lottery profits for education, another for programs to aid its elderly. Legislators in Iowa, which is largely dependent on agricultural growth, took a look at the needs of their state—and decided that one pressing need was more biotech. Every year since 1986 the state lottery agency has turned over $4.25 million to Iowa Slate University’s biotechnology program, which in turn must match that figure with outside research grants (a task it has performed without difficulty). The money has been used to hire 21 researchers and fund more than 35 research projects, including the first field test at a U.S. university of a genetically engineered organism. Walter Fehr, director of the ISU program, credits the lottery with transforming the state’s biotechnology industry: “It took us...

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