Research in Academia, is it Worthwhile for Drug Safety?


Despite considerable efforts from both sides there still remains a divide between academia and industry regarding research in this area. Having been on both sides of the fence (but more on the academia side!) I can see the strains and pulls from either end, but can see the benefits as well. Significant advances have been made with our understanding of safety pharmacology over the past decade, with new mechanistic pharmacology information and advances in technology, leading to better informed science and knowledge, attributable to both sides of the fence. Despite this, my understanding is that the industry doesn't really have the time or the space to dedicate to finding these new methodologies or interrogation of molecular pathways, being focused on their own drugs due to the consequent financial and market constraints. (Please correct me if I'm wrong).

In my opinion this is where academic research feeds in, both with their applied and blue-sky research. Academic research is a commodity that industry should be tapping into to get these basic studies done, a place where novel, peripheral or sometimes 'wacky' ideas can be tested. Similarly, many good ideas are present in academia but never see the light of day because of apparent lack of support or impact on the scientific community (a matrix by which the academic is measured). The major issue the academic is then faced with is how to fund this work, as many funding agencies either will not entertain collaborative projects with big pharma, or funding is provided with very little or no funding for overheads (which causes many a heated discussion with the University finance officers!). My question is then how can we solve this issue? As an academic I am raring to go and undertake many mechanistic studies on the oncology drug safety area, but funding is difficult to obtain and can sometimes take up to a year to get a successful/unsuccessful decision following application (by which time the actual question addressed may have gone stale).

Is there a way that industry could better support academia (particularly in Europe)? Can academia be used as a cheaper option to get the basic studies performed? Could pharmaceutical industries bankroll safety pharmacology studies in academia? Or does the divide need to stay?

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