Profits of industry funding

January 29, 2009

So the same tired old arguments are being raised about the industrial funding of research into novel pharmaceuticals at universities as were common when, working for what was Department of Trade and Industry, I put together the Link Programme in Biotransformations some 20 years ago ("Alarm raised over firm's research role", 15 January).

Steven Allin of Keele University says that there is "no suggestion that the intellectual property will reside anywhere except with GlaxoSmithKline and therefore GSK shareholders will benefit, not UK plc". Where does Allin think that UK plc gets its money to fund research at universities except via the wealth created by major firms such as GSK?

If GSK, through part-funding of this programme of work, produces a new drug, the likely cost of bringing it to market (£500 million plus) will dwarf the minuscule costs at the discovery end - an investment by GSK that could result in handsome payments to the UK Treasury.

The company, and therefore its shareholders, bear the risk of the commercialisation process and thus there is no reason why shareholders should not share in the benefits. In the 1980s, the arguments about universities sharing the rewards of any discoveries during collaborative programmes were sometimes long and occasionally bloody, but successful contracts were put together to the benefit of UK plc.

Peter B. Baker

London.

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