A memorandum of understanding between the University of California, San Diego and Johnson & Johnson, which operates a nearby lab (see UCSD statement), is only the latest example of growing collaboration between drugmakers and universities that are trying to jumpstart discovery and commercialize the results.
The agreement is part of a growing trend after years of reduced government funding and a worsening economy (back story), and is designed to speed the time required to ink formal agreements for launching each joint project. “It can be a very long process, going back and forth between lawyers,” Gary Firestein, dean of translational medicine at UCSD, tells The San Diego Union-Tribune. “If you have predetermined language, you can knock many months off negotiations."
The partnership could lead to more joint research efforts, consultations, clinical trials and training opportunities for students at the Johnson & Johnson lab, according to officials for the university and the drugmaker, although they told the paper it was too early to know how much money might be exchanged.
"Pharmaceutical company pipelines are essentially dry,” Joe Panetta, executive director of Biocom, a trade group for the San Diego life-sciences industry. "At the same time, the NIH has said that money going into basic research can't only have an academic focus, that there should be some evidence that the work will result in therapeutics.”
However, as the paper notes, not everyone likes the "increasing coziness." Some critics says the deals may let "drugmakers profit by cherry-picking research at institutes mainly funded by taxpayers and by steering research efforts toward goals that are more profitable to industry and less beneficial for patients."