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Careers in Clinical Research: Obstacles and Opportunities
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
In summary, academic-industry relationships are growing in number and frequency (Blumenthal, 1992). The real benefit from academic-industry research relationships is the potential to achieve results that neither partner could achieve alone (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1987). The respect and objectivity inherent in academic research must not be compromised by academic-industry relationships. A clearer understanding of each others' motivations, responsibilities, and mechanisms to facilitate constructive relationships will undoubtedly allow each to contribute to research in mutually beneficial relationships. These collaborative arrangements should not be so rigidly uniform as to squelch creativity. Rather, each should be tailored individually to achieve objectivity, valid clinical ends, mutually agreeable financial results, and legally acceptable consequences. As the pattern of academic-industry research collaboration strengthens in the future, sound policies and respect for each others' interests will be major factors in determining the extent and fruitfulness of such relationships (Cooper and Novitch, 1992).
Examining the overall picture of academic-industry interactions, many important advantages can be seen. The major winners are the American people, who benefit from the increasing pace of development of new products to improve health care. The relationships should provide more revenues to academic institutions and improved product development and profits for industry. Individual clinical investigators who have made important contributions can benefit financially from the evolution of their discoveries into products that improve health care. One of the most important contributions that a biomedical scientist can make is to improve the health care of millions of people.
At the same time, the pitfalls of this new process are clear. Academic freedom and pursuit of knowledge for its own sake require protection at academic institutions. Academic faculty must continue to perform their faculty duties, despite the financial incentive of interacting with industry. Continued federal support of research is needed, because NIH-supported research has been an important incubator of new ideas and novel discoveries.
A cohort of clinical investigators must also be trained to transfer technology between the laboratory bench and the bedside. They will oversee the transmission of new products and interventions to the clinic and, conversely, the transfer of clinical aberrancies to the laboratory for explanation. Highly trained individuals who can accomplish this in an efficient and cost-effective manner are needed. Incentives must be created to attract physicians and other health professionals to clinical investigations to ensure that new technology will generate new medical therapy.
There continues to be debate about whether the current supply of individuals appropriately trained as clinical investigators is seriously deficient. There is nearly unanimous agreement that the explosion of new knowledge in