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INDUSTRY – ACADEMIA
Industry – Academia relationship is the framework through which the industry (which is commercial) works with the academia (non-commercial). The objective is to create a two-way synergy in several areas. Industry – Academia relations are not specific to Pharma; it is a general activity going on worldwide, particularly in new key development areas.
- Industry brings its problems and ideas to academia in order to get resolution and support through experimentation and research. Academia has several resources at their disposal; human resource (students), academic mind-set, literature, research labs for inhouse experiments, connections with other colleagues in academia and focused approach towards problem-solving. Industry provides required financial resources to get this done. Grants such as these become funding for research projects for students who work on these as part of their research requirement. Students/ Institutions are benefitted, and the industry is benefitted.
- Industry sponsors academic institutions financially by providing funding for a permanent faculty. Looking at Bio of several senior professors, it is seen that their position at the institution is funded by someone other than the institution. Look at the faculty of Harvard University/ Business School or Stanford and you will see a list of ‘Endowed Chairs’. These are professorial positions which are donated/funded mostly by individuals. An Endowment Fund is established through which the position is funded. It is a permanent, unending arrangement; not time bound. Similarly, people donate whole buildings or establish institute in the name of their dear ones. Sohail Iftikhar Research Institute at the Punjab University is one such example. Sohail was a student at the university. He died young and his parents established this institute in his memory. Internationally, the cost of endowment runs into millions of dollars.
There is this famous story which runs like this. In 1885, Mr. and Mrs. Stanford lost their young son (probably in accident). The parents were devastated. After few days they visited the Dean of Harvard University. The Dean kept them waiting for quite some time and then finally met them with an air of arrogant impatience. Mr. & Mrs. Stanford said they wanted to donate a campus in the memory of their late son. The Dean looked at them indignantly and thought they could not afford it. He asked them “Do you know how much it will cost to donate a campus?”. No, the parents replied. The Dean said haughtily “It will be over a million dollars”. Mr. & Mrs. Stanford looked at each other and said “only a million dollars? Let us go”. They excused and went ahead and established Stanford University on November 11, 1885. Harvard not only lost funding but managed to create a huge competitor which competes till today.
- Industry offers financial support and scholarships to brilliant students so that they can continue studies uninterruptedly. Some of these students may also be hired later by the company, initially as trainee and then regular employee.
- Industry provides financial and logistic support to academic institutions in order to organize certain events. Please remember that the industry sponsors the professional events liberally because the commercial interest is involved directly. Sponsoring academic events is a long-term investment which will bear fruit after many years and in may be different forms.
This is the general framework in which Industry – Academia relationship and partnership works.
The scene between Pharma Industry and Academia is more or less the same.
- Pharma industry is not known for supporting and sponsoring academia. There are isolated examples of such relationship, but it is more of an exception, rather than a norm. The usual argument is lack of commercial benefit which does not permit them to spend. It is not a sustainable argument, but it is going on for decades.
- Pharma industry does spend liberally and lavishly on professional moots, here and abroad. This spending does not promote academic activity in any significant way, but it has tangible commercial reward.
- Pharma Industry also distributes books and journals and donates books or sponsors some academic activity in hospitals. The primary intent is to build relations with the key customers; not academics.
- Clinical studies are not considered to be industry-academia partnership.
Pharma Industry’s overriding passion and concern about business is well taken. Industry – Academia Partnership is also beneficial for business, though it is a relatively longer time investment. Pharma Industry will do itself good to get away from short-term consideration and look at longer-term opportunities.