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Pharmaceutical Industry Seek Stronger Ties with Academia in Bid to Speed Up Drug Development

22 June 2011

When pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced on June 8 that it is teaming up with eight research institutions in the Boston area to hunt for candidate drugs, the news was cheered from all sides. The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, praised the $100-million, five-year deal for the jobs it would bring to the region. Eric Buehrens, interim chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the academic partners, extolled the benefits to scientific research. Pfizer says that the partnerships will accelerate development of the next generation of drugs.

The agreement is the latest sign of a growing trend in the pharmaceutical industry, which is trying to cut costs and improve efficiency by outsourcing the earliest phases of drug discovery. "All the drug companies are looking for a new model," says Mark Pepys, a professor of medicine at University College London who is collaborating with London-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). For academics facing tight research budgets, the deals bring financial benefits--and potentially fraught relationships with the companies and their academic peers.

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