Pharmaceutical Company Researchers Add Value by Making it Possible to Deliver Medicine to the Public

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic has a post on translational research and the importance of academic institutions partnering up with big pharma. This is a main theme of Pharmaceutical Research Collaborations Summit, July 26-27, in Boston.

A key observation about the perceived tension between academic research and commercialization:

The proponents of the “real research” story seem to believe that in the case of pharma, that service is simply greed–academics are too busy doing the important research to bother themselves with trifles.

But if you think carefully about this, it is self refuting.  What it tells you is that translating basic research into a drug involves something that academics aren’t doing–something they prefer not to do.  Things like turning their discovery into a product that a) hits the target b) in a dose that doesn’t kill the human c) in a form that can be preferably be dosed orally or topically d) can be reliably and cost-effectively synthesized on a large scale and e) doesn’t degrade without a team of dedicated lab acolytes on constant watch.  This is maybe not as sexy or fun as academic research (pharma researchers feel free to weigh in here) . . . which would explain why it pays better; it would have to, to attract people into the field.

When I hear people talking about big pharma as some sort of evil big corporate big-bucks driven industry, I laugh, because most of the people I work with are scientists and doctors – people who pursued difficult career paths because they wanted to save lives or enjoy science.

It might be a different story if referring to some of the financial conferences I’ve done…

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