The growing commercialization of research
with its effect on the ethical conduct of researchers, and the advancement of scientific knowledge with its effect on the
welfare or otherwise of patients, are areas of pressing concern today and need a serious, thorough study. Biomedical research,
and its forward march, is becoming increasingly dependent on industry-academia proximity, both commercial and geographic.
A realization of the commercial value of academic biomedical research coupled with its rapid and efficient utilization by
industry is the major propelling force here. A number of well-intentioned writers in the field look to the whole development
with optimism. But this partnership is a double-edged sword, for it carries with it the potential of an exciting future as
much as the prospect of misappropriation and malevolence. Moreover, such partnerships
have sometimes eroded public trust in the research enterprise itself.
the growing clout of industry in institutions is concern about the commercialization of research and resolving the ‘patient
or product’ loyalty.
ambivalence about industry funding and influence in academia, and a consequent ‘approach-avoidance’ conflict.
If academia has to provide the patients and research talent, industry necessarily has to provide the finances and other facilities
based on it. This is an invariable and essential agreement between the two parties that they can walk out of only at their
own peril. The profound ethical concerns that industry funded research has brought center-stage need a close look, especially
as it impacts patients, research subjects, public trust, marketability of products, and research and professional credibility.
How can the
intermediate goal of industry (patient welfare)
serve the purpose of the final goal of academia is the basic struggle for conscientious research institutions/associations.
And how best the goal of maximizing profits can be best served, albeit suitably camouflaged as patient welfare throughout,
is the concern of the pharmaceutical industry.
A very great
potential conflict of interest lies in the fact that academia needs the sophisticated instruments that only big funding can
provide, while at the same time resists the attempts of the fund provider to set the agenda of research, protocol, design,
publication, the works. Conflicts arise at many steps and levels of functioning, and are related to the expectations, competing
interests, and conflicting priorities of the different entities involved, whether they are the academic medical centers, the
funding agencies, the patients and their families, or the investors and venture capitalists. The public expects access to
new treatments. Its appetite for innovation has been bolstered by the constant attention given by the
press to new treatments and by the implicit promise from researchers of continuing advances. Similarly, patients
demand privacy and control over information about themselves.
It makes greater sense for genuine researchers to associate with large long-term industry players who have
a track record of genuine hard-core discoveries, even if the process is slow (maybe), and the funding less (may not be).
of control venture capitalists exert over the pharmaceutical industry is an under researched area for obvious reasons. But it needs further probing, for that will lay bare the pulls and pressures under
which industry works.
It makes sense for ethically minded researchers and institutions not to fall in the trap of stocks and equity
investments in industry, howsoever attractive they appear, and get rid of them as soon as possible if they have them. If at
all they want, it makes more sense to own stocks of larger well established concerns, for the stock upheavals being less,
the pressure of the market-place, and of venture sharks, is likely to be lower too.
participation by the researcher in the commercialization process may be greatly desired by industry, ostensibly in the name
of creating value, academia must realize it is a bait it might find hard to swallow in the long run. It makes more sense for
the researcher and institution to forego such temptations and/or walk out of such investments as soon as possible.
Academia, Pharmaceutical Industry, Academia-Industry
Proximity, Biomedical Research, Commercialization of Research, Pharmaceutical Funding, Public Accountability
and Academic Freedom of Universities, Commercial Value of Academic Innovations, Ethical Issues, Venture Capital, Stocks
and Equity, Patients and Public Interests, Large and Small Pharmaceutical Firms
number of important areas of the connect between academia, the medical professional and the pharmaceutical industry
have been highlighted by articles in the last decade, especially in the last five years, which have still to find place in
textbooks of medicine or psychiatry. While this by itself can be considered alarming by some, for denial is a poor coping
mechanism, if at all, what is of interest to us here is how the connect has developed, what are the major areas of influence
(and concern), what the remedies for the present, if any, and what the portents for the future. The growing commercialization
of research with its effect on the ethical conduct of researchers, and the advancement of scientific knowledge with its effect
on the welfare or otherwise of patients, are areas of pressing concern and need a serious, thorough study.
monograph tries to address some of the issues in this connection.
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