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Spring 2001
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By the time they handed in the proposal in early October, they had a guarantee of $40 million from industry and a reasonable expectation of another $200 million in federal and foundation funds. That more than satisfied the governor's boundary conditions and, indeed, as Heath says, "Considering the basic nature of the science we were doing, our support was much greater than any of the referees thought we would ever get."

Two panels of experts from engineering and life sciences reviewed the proposal. "The engineering panel and science panel that saw what we were trying to do in information sciences were really excited about the possibilities and loved us," says Heath. "The biomedical types didn't quite get it. What we were proposing had a much longer-range impact than the kind of things biotech companies are interested in. They care about drug discovery, rapid screening, things like that."

The proposal was then judged by what Peccei calls a "super panel," which was led by Richard Lerner, president of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and included chemist Harry Gray of Caltech, John Brauman, cognizant dean of science at Stanford University, John Hennesy, president of Stanford, and Erling Norrby, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a member of the Board of Directors of the Nobel Foundation.

It was clear, Peccei says, that the UCLA-UCSB proposal was considered by the panel to be the strongest in pure science. "You could actually imagine," he says, "that the people involved would eventually win Nobel Prizes for things they discovered."

Gov. Davis announced the winners on December 7, and the CNSI was at the top of the list. Also awarded research funding were the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, led by UC San Diego in collaboration with UC Irvine, and the Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research, a UC San Francisco-led effort with UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Davis then said that he hoped to get money for a fourth institute, which would be the Berkeley-based Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

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