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Correspondence

Letter from Frank Blair Hanson to Linus Pauling. May 7, 1943.
Hanson reports that the Rockefeller Foundation has agreed to provide Pauling with another year of financial support for the express purpose of determining the feasiblity of manufacturing antibodies in vitro.

Transcript

May 7, 1943.

Dear Dr. Pauling:

Your letter of April 1st to Professor Millikan and the enclosed reports and request have been forwarded to The Rockefeller Foundation by Dr. Millikan. These documents have had serious study by the officers and we have also consulted a number of the leading workers in the field regarding the project.

We have recognized that the stakes were very high in this venture and therefore were willing to recommend to our Trustees the very substantial support of $31,000 which you have had this past year. This support was given with the hope that the critical central point at issue could be cleared up before the termination of the grant. As we understand it, this critical point is whether antibodies can be manufactured in vitro or not. From the conferences we have had during the past month with our advisers in this field it seems reasonably clear that the question in which we are primarily or even solely concerned -- the production of artificial antibodies -- is not unambiguously settled. It was also brought to our attention that work on the central problem involved should require only a relatively modest financial setup.

The officers are willing, after deliberation, to recommend for another year such a sum of money as may be necessary to secure as definite and clear a decision as may be possible on this central point. We would do this with the hope that another year of work might result in the publication of experimental evidence in such clear and detailed form that experts could evaluate the results precisely, and that the technical procedures in their smallest details should be so described that the experiments could be repeated exactly elsewhere, should anyone desire to do so.

It does not seem to us that we should consider going in for the support of immunology on a broad front at the present time. In fact, our advice is that if the manufacture of antibodies in vitro were unequivocally demonstrated, this would open up such vistas for research that support from many sources would be available and we could withdraw and use our funds for opening other new fields. This would be directly in line with best Foundation principle -- namely, to take the gamble in the initial stages of an unusually promising situation, developing it to the point where it commands other support. We would like to have your best estimate as to what funds -- in addition to the $11,000 already available -- you would need for a strong attack upon the problem of the production of artificial antibodies.

In the consideration of this financial question there is one aspect of the budget submitted which gives us considerable concern. We do not, as a matter of policy, pay the salaries of permanent members of the staff of an institution. At least in those few exceptions where we have done so for a brief period it has always been with the understanding that the University take over the salary at a specified time. I am of course speaking of the status of Dr. Campbell, who appears in the budget as “Assistant Professor”, but whose salary is requested from The Rockefeller Foundation. Our grants usually contribute salaries of research assistants on a year-to-year basis. In the case of an Assistant Professor or other regular staff member, we prefer not to assume the implied responsibility when such a person is paid from our research aid grant. This must necessarily be true since the Foundation rarely enters into long-term commitments, and there is never any obligation, moral or legal, on the part of the Foundation to renew grants at the end of the one, or two, or three-year period for which they are given.

I am writing to Professor Sturtevant regarding the biological side of the request from California Institute of Technology. Our last meeting until fall will be held in June, and all information regarding grants for that meeting should be in my hands at the latest, June 1st. the next meeting will not be until sometime in October.

Sincerely yours,

Frank Blair Hanson.

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