The future of proteomics  pg. 5

Lens: There is growing concern that industry affiliation represents a potential financial conflict of interest for university-based researchers, one that threatens to jeopardize the public trust in their integrity and honesty. What do you do to avoid conflicts of interest, and ensure that industry-academic collaborations succeed?

Hunkapiller: We tend to do collaborations with universities during what I would call the pre-competitive development or the basic discovery stage in the technology field. We try to make sure through our relationships with academia that we have access to developing technologies. We do not tend to push for exclusive access because exclusivity, I think, can tilt over frequently into problems with the relationship.

It becomes trickier when one is dealing with later-stage development issues, and that can become a bigger challenge publicly in some of the drug development efforts. One just has to be very careful to make sure there is full disclosure, as to who pays for development costs and who reaps the benefits of those developments.

Lens: How can your company balance the need to keep stockholders happy with the need to do good science?

White: I don’t see the conflict. We have to do good science to stay in business, so I think the best thing we can do is make to sure we have informed shareholders. We spend lot of time communicating with them, trying to make sure they understand our strategy and our plans and the basis for our scientific endeavors. We spend a lot of money, a quarter of a billion dollars a year, on research and development. That is the nature of our business. If we didn’t do it and we didn’t do it very well, we wouldn’t last.

We chose to be in field that is technology intensive, and so we have a risk profile that is different than if we were developing the next generation farm tractor.

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