Friday, February 11, 2005



How can companies stimulate research without compromising academic independence? This question is particularly acute for pharmaceuticals. Drug trials performed by scientists who are directly paid for the research trials are suspect.

One of the better methods for stimulating research is to provide financial support for leading academic researchers to pursue fundamental research. The more support there is for fundamental research, the more progress there will be (more or less). And this method of providing support is indirect, reducing the likelihood that research results will be biased (intentionally or not) or perceived to be biased.

J & J is contributing $5 million dollars to the Columbia University Medical Center to provide for Fellowships and a Professorship in "Translational Neuroscience" . "Translational" refers to the transformation of research into drugs. So this project appears to have aspects both of academic and practical research.

The translation of theoretical research to practical products is a very important and difficult problem. It is difficult to accomplish in every field, not just pharmaceuticals. In this field the spectre of tainted research is particularly acute. So for this project to succeed would be extremely interesting and valuable.

Projects like this one should be followed with great interest, for the stakes are very high for both good and ill.

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