Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has recently revealed that it forming a network of academic collaborators in order to expedite the process of turning basic science research into biologic based drugs. One of its collaborators is the University of California, San Francisco, which will receive up to $85 million (US) during the five year partnership. Pfizer will open labs near the UCSF campus allowing around 30 company scientists to work alongside university researchers who will also gain valuable access to Pfizer research tools, including their phage display libraries.
While industry pundits are applauding the collaboration as a way for pharmaceutical companies to leverage other peoples’ research and reduce their own research and development costs, others are not so sure. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School has suggested that this arrangement ‘goes one more step in blurring the boundaries between academia and industry as though they had the same missions — which they don’t.’
It has also been noted that this collaboration follows the layoff of around 19,000 Pfizer employees this year, many of whom were chemists. So while this may have short term benefits for Pfizer and the universities that participate, one wonders what its long term effect will be on drug development and the chemical industry in general.
Chambers, A.J and Wolf, L. K., (2010), Pfizer Unveils Academic Network, Chemical and Engineering News, November 22, pg 5.