Kashkow logo3lgKashkow University announced today the initiation of an innovative new program of online education that it says will create an “unprecedented revenue stream for non-profit institutions of higher learning,” while streamlining the university staff.

The Kashkow scheme is called Massive Money-Making Opportunity: Opting Out Of Courses! (MMMOOOOC!). Under MMMOOOOC! PROGRAM, Kashkow would eliminate all classes. Instead, it would offer college credits and diplomas through a subscription service similar to the online movie and television service Netflix. The caliber of the degree purchased would be tied to the subscription level. For $29.99 per month, for example, one can receive credit for a full load of coursework that is “equivalent to a Duke University or Washington University in St. Louis,” according to the university. Johns Hopkins or Wesleyan-level coursework costs $69.99 per month, while a Premium membership (Harvard, Princeton, or Yale) can be purchased for $99.99 monthly. There is a three-month minimum contract, which enables one to purchase a complete course; an automatic renewal system allows one to “drop out” of taking the spring semester. The university will also offer a “Basic” membership: for $9.99 a month, students can pursue coursework toward the equivalent of a philosophy degree from the Delaware College of Textiles and Mines.

The new MMMOOOOCs! would be packed with information and essentially content-free. Subscribers would receive a full set of lecture notes, digests of reading materials, complete term papers (with bibliographies), and exam keys—everything needed to pass a course with a grade of A+ or higher. All exams and essays will of course be open-book, and students are encouraged to cut and paste from lecture materials in order to save time. This greatly increases the efficiency of the learning process, university spokesmen say.

Think of education like filling a bucket, said the former Kashkow Dean of Students, Prof. Tweed Pantsuit. In conventional teaching, the faucet is an old fashioned pump handle and the bucket is full of holes. The massively online course movement is a firehose that the student can turn on and off at will, while holding the bucket herself. The result is much more water hitting the bucket in less time—and as we learned in quantum mechanics (wasn’t it?) time is money. Prof. Pantsuit said more about the bucket model, but frankly it wasn’t printable.

The streamlining of courses into “courseware” will have a big impact on the university’s bottom line, according to a Kashkow spokeman. It will enable the university to trim the faculty salary and benefits budget from $75 million to $342.50, according to official university documents we obtained. The bold new plan would reduce the current faculty of 225 full-time professors down to two part-time adjuncts: one for “arts” and one for “sciences.” The medical and engineering faculty would be spun off into for-profit companies, “Kashkow Medicine Dot Edu” and “Kashkow Engineering Dot Edu Dot Com,” respectively.

MMMOOOOCs! will “revolutionize higher education,” said to university president Dieter Geld. “By concentrating on what we do best,” said Geld, “We will be able to better serve our stakeholders.” Pressed on what it was that Kashkow did best, Geld said, “Serving our stakeholders!”

Further aiding the bottom line is the fact that Mr. Aristotle Spinoza, MA, the Professor of Arts, will be on leave next year, serving steakholders at a local “Surf-n-Turf” dining establishment. Raising profits while cutting costs is a “win-win” for education, Geld says.

Such a massive transformation of the university structure will not happen overnight, Geld noted; nor will it happen on its own. “To facilitate the reallocation of resources,” he said, “we are pleased to announce the appointment of a crack team of administrators.” Kashkow will be hiring six new deans and associate deans. Horatio S. O. B. Functionary, former Provost of Gouger Administrators’ College in Shillings-upon-Quid, U.K., will be the new Dean of Profiteering and will oversee the university’s money laundering program. Reed M. N. Weap, a freelance card sharp with over 20 years’ experience in money management, will be the new Dean of Accumulation. And John “Bud” Balls, formerly the football coach at Bigten University, will serve as Associate Dean of Associate Deans and will manage the university’s burgeoning roster of high-level administrators. (Balls will also head up the new varsity intramural sexual predator squad, The Fighting Flashers.) The Office of Public Relations will be split into three, each with its own associate dean: the Office of Stakeholder Relations, the Office of Trustee Relations, and the Office of Dean Relations. The new administrators will make an average of $550,000 per year salary, plus an average of nearly $4,000,000 per year in benefits.

When asked about the wisdom of adding high-paid staff as a cost-cutting measure, Geld replied, “It takes a crack team to bring out real educational change. When it comes to sparing expense, we spare no expense!”


Avaris announces new gene strategy: trademarks

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down the patenting of naturally occurring genes is being hailed as a victory for patients and healthcare providers, because sky-high licensing fees can no longer be charged by companies holding a monopoly on genetic information. Some biotech companies are down in the dumps, however, as they fear smaller returns on discoveries and thus lower incentives to develop new gene tests. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests at the center of the SCOTUS case, developed and licensed exclusively by Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, helped propel Myriad’s 2012 earnings to a snip shy of half a billion dollars–equal to the GDP of the British Virgin Islands, which has much better rum drinks than Utah.

Avaris Pharmaceuticals–based, conveniently, under a tax-sheltering palm tree in the British Virgin Islands–has announced a bold new strategy it hopes will become a new industry standard for gouging providers and patients alike: gene trademarks.

Using a variety of newly available technologies, Avaris plans to “brand” genes to give them a distinctive look and feel. Traditional pharmaceuticals have used this approach since the mid-20th century. The color and shape of a pill is known in the industry as “trade dress.” Think Zantac’s blue pentagon, Viagra’s blue diamond, or the “purple pill,” Prilosec. The physician and historian of medicine Jeremy Greene has discussed how trade dress is used to instill confidence on the part of doctors and, with direct-to-consumer marketing, patients themselves. But can Avaris really create “trade dress” for genes?

“We can create a trade dress for genes,” said Ray P. N. Pillage, a senior scientist at Avaris. Pillage offered several scenarios by which trademarked genes could become a reality. One is fluorescent labeling. Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) has been in use since the 1990s as a technique for staining whole chromosomes. Avaris scientists are working on ways to create microscopic logos on engineered chromosomes that carry particular genes. By placing a sample under a special microscope, a routine technician could check that a chromosome carried a particular gene. Pillage imagines a host of attention-getting devices that could usher in a colorful era of flashing, flickering chromosomes, reminiscent of the golden age of neon storefront signs of the early 20th century. “It’ll be like Times Square in a dish,” said Pillage.

Another technique could involve radioactive labeling of individual nucleotides. This is an even older technique that dates back to the years immediately after World War II. Substituting hot isotopes of phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon, and hydrogen for their non-radioactive atomic counterparts could enable researchers to create intricate patterns in the DNA itself. Specific forms of naturally occurring genes could be labeled with unique eye-catching designs and even logos. “We might even be able to embed subliminal messages,” said Pillage, his eyes widening and little flecks of saliva appearing in the corners of his mouth. “You know, like when they spliced a single frame of a Coca-Cola into a movie and suddenly you felt thirsty?” An intrepid reporter takes the bait: “So, you’ll make technicians want a soft drink?” “No, that’s small potatoes–and anyway a different market niche. We’ll make you think, ‘Say, a high-Speed sEquencing machine would be eXcellent! And PErhaps a New In Situ fluorescence microscope!'”

For now, trademarked genes would not be marketed to the public. Branded DNA would be delivered, ice cold, to genetic testing laboratories and biotech companies seeking to develop new tests. The hope is that the labeled genes will inspire confidence that the DNA is the “real thing.” If the product can be trusted to have zero impurities, Pillage said, “things will go better” in the lab.

The beauty of trademarking, from a marketing point of view, is that in modifying the DNA, it then becomes patentable–even though no biological activity is introduced to the molecule. It will respond to the same genetic tests. By dressing up the DNA, furthermore, industry executives hope to instill the same sense of confidence trade dress confers in pharmaceuticals. It seems likely that a new “generic DNA” industry will follow suit, providing a lower-cost–but perhaps lower trust–alternative to “name brand” genes.

“It’ll be a goldmine,” said Pillage, reaching into a company refrigerator. “Have a Coke?”