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Friday, December 01, 2006

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Landis Kannberg, a program manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, became the new director of the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute (MBI) in November when former director Kevin Drost retired. The institution is a collaboration between Oregon State University and PNNL. MBI is a partner with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI). MBI is involved in more than $10 million worth of research and development, including recent work on a micro-scale blood filter for future use in a portable kidney dialysis machine.


Researchers at Siga Technologies are one step closer to a new drug that would prevent the spread of smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated in 1977, but many countries have retained small amounts of the virus for research, turning an old disease into a new bio-terror threat. “In the case of smallpox, there is no approved drug [for treatment or protection] available,” says Dennis Hruby, Siga’s chief scientific officer and a professor of microbiology at Oregon State University. Siga has stepped into the business of bio-terror prevention with the help of a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the National Institutes of Health to develop the smallpox drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve the drug in 2009. Since 2001, Siga’s staff has grown to 50 and Hruby says they look to hire 12 more within the next several months.


The results of a 10-year study on ranching in the West could explain the changing of the guard seen on some Oregon ranches. The study, conducted by researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Colorado and the University of Otago in New Zealand, found that only 26% of large ranches were sold to traditional ranchers. The rest went to a combination of investors, developers and a new breed: the “amenity buyer.” These affluent ranch buyers are more interested in a back-to-nature retreat than a working ranch. According to Hannah Gosnell at Oregon State, this shift has a limited effect on Oregon ranches, although the results of amenity buyers can still be seen, especially around the Klamath River basin.

 

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Editor's Letter: Power Play

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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