some companies might gain an unfair advantage in commercializing the results of federally sponsored research.
Probably even more troublesome is the involvement of foreign interests in gaining exclusive rights to federally sponsored research results emanating from U.S. research institutions. In some cases, this information can be bought freely, through membership fees paid to an institution, to obtain information prior to its public release. Thus, information is available to those people, domestic or foreign, who can afford to pay. In the extreme, foreign companies can develop relationships with research institutions to effectively gain the rights of exclusive licensing for all research performed at an institution or in a particular department without regard to the public sponsor. Although the committee is not aware of any documented case of abuse in these types of relationships, the potential exists for controlling information paid for by U.S. citizens and relationships of this sort require careful monitoring in the event that public policy changes need to be made.
The issue of conflicts of interest is a complicated one and is the subject of a book by Porter and Malone (1992). Most reports have focused on the clinical investigator, because the relationships of clinical investigators with industry (described above) create the setting for such conflicts. From the point of view of industry, there is a desire to avoid conflicts of interest that may inject bias into research results. Talented academic investigators with relevant special expertise, especially those who provide advice as consultants, are given incentives by industry to provide their best effort through remuneration. Some firms provide a basic modest consulting fee along with equity opportunities such as stock options. However, this kind of compensation is not provided for academic investigators who perform clinical trials with company products, because it might create an investigator bias in the interpretation of results. Such conflicts, which could lead to loss of objectivity, are counterproductive for the company as well as the academic stature of the investigator.
Although investigator conflict of interest has received considerable scrutiny, institutional conflict of interest has begun to emerge, in which officers and managers of academic institutions own equity in companies whose success may be influenced by their faculty's research. The leadership of academic institutions is ultimately held responsible and accountable for the faculty's research and providing assurance of objectivity and integrity. The personal ownership or institutional ownership of equity in companies with which they have a professional research relationship raises the specter of improprieties and questions the ability of these institutions to manage their own academic-industry relationships (Blumenthal, 1992). With the relatively recent approach of