Industry members add 'unique blend of experience'

May 13, 2005

The academic community's fear that panel members from industry will place too much emphasis on applied research is unfounded, according to Barry Furr, chief scientist at AstraZeneca, writes Anthea Lipsett .

Professor Furr, one of two members on the cancer studies panel who come from industry, said: "It's a misunderstanding of what industry wants. If anything, I'm more resistant to universities trying to do what industry does."

Drug discovery required a range of skills and input that universities could not readily assemble, he said.

"Academics are good at probing fundamental issues and that's of enormous benefit to industry."

The sub-panel places less emphasis on personal prestige, which will be reflected in the main panel's scoring system. "It's difficult to measure and some of it's more political than scientific."

The review will be largely retrospective. But Professor Furr believes more emphasis should be placed on future plans. "Otherwise, we are only rewarding past history and stifling those with new ideas."

Professor Furr, who has worked at AstraZeneca since 1971, believes he brings a degree of independence to panel deliberations.

He was head of Astrazeneca's Project Evaluation Group and has been chairman of the Society for Endocrinology, chair of the Academy of Medical Sciences' industry forum and a member of the Biosciences Federation's council.

* Delivering something of value to athletes is what matters to John Brewer, director of the Lucozade Sport Science Academy, who has been appointed to the sports science panel, writes Katherine Demopoulos .

The panel will assess the research of more than 30 sports science departments.

"For me it's a great honour to be asked," Mr Brewer said.

"Academic publications may have something in them that enables the end-user to change what they do to improve their performance," he said. "I sound as though I'm blowing my own trumpet, but I think I was appointed because I've got a unique blend of practical, scientific and commercial experience."

Before Lucozade, Mr Brewer was director of Lilleshall Human Performance Centre, a private company providing practical support to athletes, where he worked for 18 years.

"I went to the football World Cup in 1990 as the sport scientist supporting the team."

Then, it was "out of a tracksuit and into a managerial role" with a £500,000 budget and a growing support team to take on the practical sports science.

"I come to the panel as someone who commissions research and therefore knows what the end-user requires from a research programme."

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