Often there is a gap between the investigation of disease mechanisms in academia and drug discovery in a corporate pharmaceutical world, said Linda Van Eldik, professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She believes that there needs to be open communication around the fundamentals of what an industry partner is looking for in the drug discovery process from the research done in an academic setting. When the final recipient of the research is a company that will ultimately need to mass produce a drug, it is essential to get academics on board with the drug discovery mission and process, Van Eldik explained.
A challenge in partnering with academia is cultural, particularly surrounding the tenure process. If modern science requires unfettered collaboration and information flow, this creates a real barrier to investigator and institutional buy-in. Van Eldik believes that the issue can begin to be addressed by getting the institutions behind the translational research process, which is not always valued in the tenure track culture of academia. A major question that arises is how to do “team science” and how individual investigators get credit for team science. What is required is creativity and compromise from all parties. “Academics do want to do this,” she said. “They want to translate their basic science discoveries. It’s just [a matter of] figuring out the best way to partner with the appropriate people.”
Any discussion about funding for medical science inevitably turns to the NIH. Partnering with the NIH gives a voluntary health organization’s efforts credibility in the research process that might be missing if the agenda were driven solely by the organization, according to the workshop participants. Further, voluntary health organizations and the NIH are not competing entities but are instead tremendously complementary.
Many expressed that the NIH is essential to biomedical research, and while not traditionally focused on funding applied science, this is changing with relation to new drug development. Consequently, there exists an opportunity for voluntary health organizations to address this gap and