11.03.2013 18:25

New Thesis Opportunities for Bachelor, Master & Phd Students - Chair group „Agricultural and Food Economics“ (Summer Term 2013) (copy 1)


If you are interested, please send an email and a current credit point statement (Leistungspunktekontoauszug) to:

Dr. Matthias Blum
Weihenstephaner Steig 22
Room 1.06
D-85354 Freising, Bayern
Germany

Phone: +49 8161 71-2773
Fax: +49 8161 71-3030
Email:  matthias.blum[at]tum.de

 

 

 

 

Biotech regulations, risk assessment, and the financial burden of entrepreneurs

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

 

The case of Vion Pharmaceuticals, a US-based biotech company developing novel cancer therapeutics received a great deal of attention when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised that Vion had to complete an additional randomized study to prove the efficacy and safety of “Onrigin”, a promising anti-cancer agent. By the time the FDA requested additional research, Vion neither had sufficient financial resources, nor was she able to raise additional capital to conduct the requested research and continue its operations.

 

A central goal in this study will be the investigation of the role of regulatory processes, such as requirements for the research and testing of innovative pharmaceuticals, including the need for randomized trials and other (time, and finances) resource consuming requirements. The burden of meeting requirements of biotech companies (compared to other, established industries) is of central importance, which may affect a company’s creditworthiness, due to a drug’s market maturity being delayed. In extreme cases, such as new start-up business in biotech, heavy regulatory burdens may increase the risk of bankruptcy and may affect a company’s ability to access capital and funding on favorable terms.



 

The impact on agriculture from neighboring, non-agricultural industries

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

There are several inter-linkages between the agricultural sector and industries located outside of the agricultural sector. The most prominent example is the energy sector, which has become increasingly dependent on biofuel production. Another, less prominent examples include upstream industries supplying the automobile sector with hides, leather and other biological materials.

 

Consequently, any shock to a downstream industry such as the energy or automobile sector exerts an impact on the prosperity of its agricultural suppliers. For example, during slumps in demand for automobiles Vion N.V. (respectively Sonac, its subsidiary marketing hides) experiences economic problems due to decreasing demand for hides.

 

The candidate’s task in this thesis is to investigate inter-linkages between the agricultural sector and neighboring, non-agricultural sectors, such as the automobile industry and their impact (e.g. during recessions) on agriculture’s economic prosperity.


Regulations and how they influence modern EU medicine and the Bioeconomy: the case of enzymes

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

Enzymes are used for many bio-based products: beer, cheese, pharmaceuticals, washing powder to name only a few. The regulations on using enzymes depend on the final product. The theory on regulatory harmonization predicts that in the end enzymes will be regulated according to one regulatory standard. Producers argue this may result that in some cases regulations are more stringent than necessary. In particular concerns have been raised about the regulation of enzymes used in the health care sector being overregulated as the more stringent standards used within the food sector are applied.

 

The thesis will follow a case study approach. The objective of the thesis is to compare regulations on the use of enzymes in the food and health care sector and to identify if indeed regulations in the food sector have implications for the regulation in the health sector.

 

 

How important were agricultural pre-conditions for the development of societies?

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

In his seminal book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (1997), Jared Diamond argues that economic success of some countries is not created by superior intelligence, or superiority in general, but was pre-determined by a set of agricultural preconditions. Among others, the bare number of domesticable plant and animal species were responsible for developmental advantages of Europe and Asia and disadvantages for other world regions.

The candidate’s task is reviewing existing studies on this hypothesis and investigating whether there is space for improvements in this field. Possible extensions of existing studies include the influence of agricultural pre-conditions on economic development and human capital levels.

 

 

Are we getting smarter? An evaluation of the so-called “Flynn-effect”

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

In two influential studies, Flynn (1984, 1987) reports that Western populations have experienced gains in IQ scores in the order of 5 to 25 points per generation over approximately the last seven decades (Flynn 1984, 1987, 1999, Lynn 1982). Since the IQ gains occurred too rapidly to have been caused by genetic selection, most approaches trying to explain the Flynn-effect focus on environmental causes. The most prominent one is related to improved nutrition enabling human bodies (and brains) to develop more fully (Lynn 1989, 1990).

Flynn’s findings are important to economists as they may offer new and critical insights into the determinants of economic growth. If improved nutrition can result in an increase in mental abilities, it may also foster accumulation of human capital. In this regard, Flynn (2012) states that IQ gains in some countries have provided “mental abilities that allow us to better deal with the complexity of the modern world, including the problems of economic development” (Flynn 2012, p.1).

 

This thesis is supposed to test this hypothesis and evaluate the impact of Flynn’s finding on economic growth and development.

 

 

Sustainable economic development in Germany? Empirical evidence in historical perspective

(in English or German)

(Research project, B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

Starting after the Rio summit of 1992, governments started searching for alternative indicators to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for future human welfare which are comprehensive, simple to use, and have predictive power (McLaughlin et al. 2012). One of the most common indicators linking sustainable development with human well-being, the capital stock (human and physical) and resource depletion, is ‘Genuine Savings’ (GS). GS measures the net depletion or accumulation of all capital stocks in a given period in time, where ‘capital’ includes produced, natural, human, and social capital. The central idea is that different forms of capital - produced, natural and human - may be substituted to sustain development. GS has been adopted by the World Bank as it is a broadly recognized indicator of the sustainability of economic development for countries worldwide. In this thesis, the candidate’s task is to use given sources of German economic development (in terms of GDP) during the past and evaluate this development regarding its impact on Germany’s Genuine Savings.

 

Climate change, declining harvests and the well-being of Europeans during the Little Ice Age – is history repeating itself?

(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

History provides us with a unique natural climate experiment: during the Little Ice Age (16th to 19th centuries) Europe experienced declining atmosphere temperatures, indicated by slower growth of trees (measured by tree rings). Knowledge of this event might help us better understanding today’s challenges during increasing temperatures allegedly caused by the climate change. The candidate’s task is to compare temperature reconstructions and a number of welfare measures, such as real wages or average height, during this time and to evaluate parallels to modern-day challenges related to climate change.

 

 

Germany during the First World War (several topics)

-        Were inhabitants of cities starving while the rural population was doing just fine?

-        Were Protestants better off than Catholics?

-        On the road to National Socialism: were German living standards during the First World War responsible for the Second World War?

 (in English or German)

(Research project, B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

When Germany was at war from 1914-1918, its enemies – primarily the British Navy – isolated the country by a naval blockade to prevent imports of foodstuffs and armament goods. As a consequence, Germany’s agricultural production declined substantially as the lack of labor, fertilizer, and capital goods hindered production. The shortage caused black market food prices in Germany to increase up to several thousand per cent. This had several consequences: living standards declined, especially did nutrition, and inequality rose. In particular urban citizens and Catholics were affected most. At the same time, the food crisis provided farmers with a unique business opportunity. The candidate’s task is to investigate either aspects of German living standards, agriculture or the crisis’ impact on the success of the NAZI during the early 1930s.

 

Fact or fiction: is there such thing as gender discrimination?
(in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

In this thesis the candidate’s task is to investigate potential sources of gender welfare differences on a global perspective, and to discuss them in the light of recently collected evidence. Among others, it has argued that in the course of economic development women’s status follows an U-shape development: they initially lose in terms of socioeconomic status relative to men, while at later stages women catch up. This phenomenon has been investigated within some case studies, and more generally for the case of human capital development.

This thesis may focus on the case on the relative nutritional status of women relative to men. It is possible to use data provided by the supervisor to test this hypotheses by applying a dataset on global male and female welfare estimations.

 

 

A déjà-vu for Germany as a center for research and innovation? German and EU biotech policies and the dismissal of Jewish scientists in Nazi Germany

(in English or German)

(Research project, B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

Recently, BASF, a large manufacturer of pharmaceutical and chemical products, announced that it will relocate its biotech R&D to the US. According to BASF officials, the reason for this step is the “lack of acceptance by the majority of consumers and politicians”. This means not only a loss of white-collar jobs, but a removal of valuable human capital and technology which might be lost for future economic development.

In this thesis, the candidate’s task is a comparison of the aforementioned developments and a similar natural experiment: the dismissal of Jewish scientists in Nazi Germany. Both events have similarities and differences. The main difference, of course, is the nature of the two migration flows. While the reason for migrating Jews was a hostile climate for ethnic and religious minorities, the reason for relocating research centers of today’s biotech companies is a hostile climate towards GM technologies. Similarities include the loss of human capital, investments, innovations, and most likely patents, growth, and technical and technological advances.

 

How does the shadow economy contribute to our well-being? (in English or German)

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

One common weakness of GDP estimations is that it is based on official statistics. Unofficial sources of income, such as informal work or black markets (especially their extent), are often unknown and have to be neglected. The candidate’s task is to discuss reasons for participation in informal markets and the consequences for welfare: both the individual’s welfare and the consequences for the entire society are relevant (e.g. via low tax revenues due to informal work).

 

How much do Rinderpests tell us about technology in animal husbandry and medicine?

(B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis)

 

Rinderpest, also known as the cattle plague, is a threat to cattle breeders, agriculture as a whole, and, in extreme cases, to human nutrition. Information on cattle plagues as well as their extent (e.g. losses in % of the cattle herd) is available in the literature and can be easily analysed. The central questions in this thesis are: why do cattle plagues occur, what measures exist to contain their spread, and does the extent of the plague contain information about the level of existing medical and agricultural technology?

In this thesis, the candidate’s job is to use existing information on the occurrence and the severity of cattle plagues, to compare this information with other indicators of medical and agricultural technology, and to evaluate to what extent Rinderpests can be used to gain information about the prevailing level of medical and agricultural technology.