Dispatches from EATRIS Translational Research Conference, Amsterdam

EATRIS: Pharma has a vital role in translational medicine

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When translational medicine researchers recognise the need for pharma industry cash but are wary of handing over drug development to for-profit organisations, how can public-private collaborations bridge the culture gap?

At a translational research conference organised by EATRIS (European Infrastructure for Translational Medicine) this week, Operations Director Anton Ussi spoke to Outsourcing-Pharma.com’s Fiona Barry about reaching consensus and who should fund translational research.

The interview followed two days of debate at the Amsterdam conference about how to best support researchers as they “translate” early data into meaningful drug development work.

EATRIS matchmakes European public translational research facilities with private clients looking for answers to research questions.

In a panel discussion on Thursday with representatives from disease charities and academia, speakers expressed caution about the different aims of academia and the pharma industry.

Industry is not philanthropic,” said Donna Walsh of the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA), adding that non-profit organisations are concerned pharma companies will pursue only the most lucrative targets and neglect other diseases.   

When venture capital does enter the translational research area, it often arrives late in the day, leaving a gap in funding, said the Dutch Arthritis Foundation’s Ingrid Lether.

At the middle stage of translational research, “venture capital says it’s too green, and charities say it’s become too commercial,” so neither can plug the hole, she said.

Lether offered a novel solution: her charity has swapped giving loans it expects to be paid back for straightforward investments in the research, sunk costs which it loses if the research stalls. But when development succeeds to commercialisation stage, the charity receives a proportion of the profits – sometimes five or ten years later – “a very gentlemanlike arrangement,” she said.   

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