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Feature Drug Development

Compound interests: how a partnership between academics and a drug company came unstuck

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 04 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5356
  1. Andrew Jack, pharmaceuticals correspondent
  1. 1Financial Times, London, UK
  1. andrew.jack{at}

Andrew Jack reports on the latest twist in the debate over the role of an organisation that aims to broker greater collaboration in pharmaceutical research and development

The failure to reach agreement between a leading Italian medical research organisation and the British pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline on an important research project highlights broader challenges in forging partnerships between academics and drug companies across the European Union.

The Mario Negri Institute in Milan recently decided it could not participate with other European researchers in a programme between industry and academia to tackle antibiotic resistance coordinated by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The Italian institute was concerned over strict confidentiality and legal agreements imposed by GSK and that the company had a dominant voice in determining the terms of the research programme, the design of the trial (including the choice of comparator drug), and access to the underlying clinical data.

“We try to be an independent organisation,” says Silvio Garratini, who was to lead the Italian research team. “That means you cooperate with others; you share control of the situation. To be denied access to data is certainly a big obstacle to any concept of independence.”

As Garattini and colleagues explain alongside this article,1 the Mario Negri Institute decided there was an inappropriate level of control and secrecy for a project in part funded by public money. …

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