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From Bench to Bedside in a Bioeconomy

June 19, 2012
By Joe Allen, President, Allen and Associates

It's a sign of a well crafted program when the closing panel reinforces the opening speaker.

Boston University President Robert Brown kicked off the afternoon at the Translational Research Forum at the 2012 BIO International Convention by showing how the old linear model of product development crafted after World War II no longer applies. The closing industry panel aptly remarked that a struggling economy has brought the public and private sectors together through the necessity of finding the drugs of the future. This blending of basic research with application characterizes translational research.

One model of the new partnership is between the University of Virginia and AstraZenaca. UVA was selected over larger research universities because of a willingness to partner running from the top leadership through the research faculty.

New partnerships are two way streets — industry is bringing knowledge as well as funding to the table. Agreements are now characterized by milestones and a willingness to stop projects that fail. Companies not only accept the academic need to publish, but recognize the importance of peer reviewed articles as a metric of success.

No longer are companies isolated from their university partners but increasingly are moving research facilities near-by their university partners. Schools outside the traditional Boston-San Francisco-San Diego biotech hubs are attracting company interest through their willingness to show how hungry they are to get in the game.

While still too soon to measure the new translational research model by the number of new drugs developed, both academic and industry partners feel that this is the way forward.

The National Institutes of Health are also introducing new programs spurring partnerships between multiple academic partners designed to identify promising approaches to high priority health needs, as well as assisting drug development companies in finding new applications for drugs sitting on the laboratory shelf.

It's clear that the old barriers separating our public and private sectors are rapidly coming down — to the benefit of the US taxpayer.