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Quietly, carefully, delicately, University officials this summer began exploring the possibilities of setting up or investing in a company that would develop and patent biomedical procedures and substances created in Harvard's laboratories.

Spurred on by visions of potentially huge financial rewards, and by the work of Mark S. Ptashne, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, whose lab is doing pioneering recombinant DNA research with much-heralded interferon, discussions began.

But they were only preliminary, and the concept--sure to rankle faculty members who have either gone to the trouble of establishing their own companies or may question Harvard's involvement in business--will undoubtedly take much time to evolve.

Details were scarce, but sources close to the talks said the University--which owns patent rights on professor's biomedical discoveries--was considering creating a middleman company which would develop the product or technique.

Some officials said that despite the many dilemmas involved, the concept was a potential winner, providing professors a channel for inventions and the University a way to make money on the space that it "rents" to its Faculty.

Other Sources, however, warned that the issue was far too controversial; when the topic reaches the Faculty for debate, they predicted, more than just a few eyebrows would be raised.

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