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Careers in Clinical Research: Obstacles and Opportunities
Human Resources Needs
The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries not only need highly qualified investigators in academia to catalyze the discovery process and conduct research on behalf of the corporate sector, but they also need academia as a source of corporate talent. Industry needs access to highly trained personnel who can undertake basic research and health professionals to run clinical trials, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other professionals, such as biostatisticians, who are essential for the design and execution of clinical trials. For example, many biotechnology companies are just bringing their first products into the clinical trial stage; thus, a substantially greater number of personnel probably will be needed both in the companies and in academic medical centers. In addition, corporate leadership often comes from academia. Thus, industry is highly dependent on the preparation of highly skilled individuals from academia.
BENEFITS FOR ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS, FACULTY, AND STUDENTS
With the increasing competition for and the reduced rate of growth of the available federal funds for research, academic institutions have actively sought other sources of support, particularly from industry. Universities and their faculty generally would prefer that industry provide unrestricted funds for both basic research and clinical trials. Nevertheless, industry is most likely to invest large amounts of money in work with potential for product development. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry spent over $2 billion on clinical research in 1991, making it one of the largest sources of support for patient-oriented clinical research.
Although many of these financial resources are viewed as contractual research with prescribed outcomes, participation in industry research also can spin off some investigator-initiated studies simultaneously. Thus, the exposure of faculty to these opportunities can enhance their scholarly pursuits.
Just as industry benefits from access to academic talent, academic institutions can also benefit by interaction with scientific personnel in the private sector. Exchanges of scientific talent with industry allows the infusion of new ideas into the academic realm in the same fashion as academics provide advice to industry.
Students can benefit from academic-industry relationships by participating in industry-sponsored research. Such experiences can open up new opportunities for investigation and career opportunities. However, students should not be beholden to industrial support for their thesis research and certain precautions should be taken to insulate students from any negative consequences of industrial support.