GlaxoSmithKline has netted two top Oxbridge researchers and more academics could follow as the company moves to narrow the university-industry divide.
Paul Matthews, director of the Centre for Functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the Brain at Oxford University, confirmed this week that he had accepted a position as vice-president for imaging in translational medicine and genetics at the pharmaceutical research giant.
Ed Bullmore, professor of psychiatry at Cambridge University, has accepted a part-time post as director of GSK's Clinical Research Unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Professor Bullmore's time will be split 50-50 between the university and the company in what looks likely to be a new model for attracting leading academic to industry.
Professor Bullmore said: "The academic-industry divide is a less clear-cut division than it has been for years. A lot of major pharmaceutical companies feel they need to address more basic science questions if they are to develop better drugs faster. Government agencies, too, are shifting towards the clinical end of the spectrum."
Both scientists said they were tempted by the scientific opportunities at GSK. But access to high-tech resources and cash to fund their research were also key. The company spends about £1 billion a year on research in the UK.
Professor Matthews will head a new imaging centre, which is being built at Hammersmith Hospital in partnership with Imperial College London and the Medical Research Council. He said: "It will be the biggest purpose-built translational medicine and imaging centre in Europe. It will have remarkable facilities."
The centre has recruited about 25 people, including chemists from the US and Sweden. It aims to up this number to 60 by next year.