Working within industry's silken but firm embrace

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 26 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:871
  1. Geoff Watts
  1. London

    Patrick Vallance, who recently moved from University College London to GlaxoSmithKline, would like to see more movement between academia and industry. Geoff Watts reports

    “I probably spend more time thinking and talking about science now than I did in academia. Disease states, pathways, cell types . . . every day I'm faced with major scientific issues across a range of areas.”

    The man making this surprising observation—surprising to him as well as to me—is Patrick Vallance. Until a year ago he was professor of clinical pharmacology at University College London (UCL); now he's GlaxoSmithKline's senior vice president for drug discovery. And nor is his more frequent engagement with science the only surprise he's encountered since he changed jobs.

    “Many of the projects we're working on in drug discovery are higher risk and more forward looking than some of the things I saw coming through grant panels in academia—the sort of thing that might have been rejected as too speculative. I also realised that I had never previously sat down and talked about what things would look like in 2012 or 2015. That's an everyday discussion in this industry. There's no alternative.”

    But what prompted him, in his mid-40s, to move into industry? As much as he now relishes the surprise aspects of his work, they clearly …

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