Teamwork + Trust pg. 3
How can we encourage more testing of products in combination?
Sadly, synergy between companies has not yet been a feature of drug development. Usually it means the academic community will do the clinical trial.
I must say I can’t see the logic of it because you would imagine that if two drug companies thought there was a rationale for a combination, that it would present a win-win situation for them to get together and do such a trial.
What’s holding them back?
I think it’s usually competition fears, the fear that the market share of their individual drug will suffer. I think that… is being reflected in the big takeovers rather than company collaboration…
When Pfizer takes over another company, or Wyeth merges with Amgen, basically what’s happening is that the pipeline of the two companies can then be combined... But I don’t see why (collaboration) can’t happen between two independent companies.
According to some, the traditional career path in academic science presents another challenge to collaboration because researchers must demonstrate their independence to win research grants and publish their results. Do you agree?
Certainly there is some truth in it. The competitive grant system does encourage individuals to build their own little enterprise. And in that environment, sharing of knowledge is often regarded as a threat rather than as an opportunity. I think that it’s further encouraged by the fact that discoveries now have commercial value, because you can patent your discoveries and exploit them.
But I do think that in practically every case that I can think of where major discoveries are made, either at the basic science level or at the clinical translational level, collaboration is more or less essential. Whether it was the Human Genome Project, or at a minor level, taking anti-TNF from the bench to the clinic, collaboration was essential.
What is usually needed is trust and enlightenment between the groups that will work together, and good management of the process so that the reward system is fair... I think that in good environments, that is beginning to happen...
I think teamwork is beginning to be appreciated more as a necessity in scientific achievement. In a properly managed environment, the career progress of individuals has to be taken care of. The real contributors have to be singled out... I think that journals, for example, are becoming much more tough about accreditation of authorship. And similarly, where intellectual property is created, people are much more aware of and smarter about how that should be taken care of.
In one way, it’s making the whole thing a little more commercially driven, but I take the view—rightly or wrongly—that in order to progress, resources of commercial backing are needed to take things from rudimentary bench to the clinic anyway. That’s the reality. You can’t do it without some involvement of commerce in it.