Last week’s media coverage on the Alzheimer’s research being undertaken by the University of Leicester has raised some provocative questions about the pharmaceutical industry’s relationship with universities.
A comment piece in the Telegraph would have you believe that pharmaceutical companies are manipulative and take full advantage of vulnerable, cash-stricken universities. However, my experience of this relationship is very different. The reality is that only a small minority of 'bright ideas' have the potential to be turned into a successful treatment and it is within the pharmaceutical industry that lies the essential development, regulatory and manufacturing expertise to help harness that potential.
There are a whole host of examples of pharmaceutical companies investing in cross-sector partnerships fostering collaboration, and bringing unique expertise, the latest technologies, and a new perspective that promotes innovation.
A notable example is the Dundee Kinase Consortium – six pharmaceutical companies collaborating with the University of Dundee in a programme that has been running since 1998 with industrial investment of £50m to date.
Other more recent partnerships include MRC-ABPI consortia of universities and companies working together to address common challenges in treatment for respiratory inflammatory disease (COPD) and rheumatoid arthritis, so that ultimately patients benefit from better targeted treatments.
It is over-simplistic to think of the pharmaceutical industry as the profit-hungry Goliath. It fails to acknowledge the valuable contribution the industry makes to successfully take a bright idea, nurture it, and steer it through the complex maze a candidate medicine travels from lab to patient.
Dr Bina Rawal
Director of Medical, Innovation and Research