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Transferring Compounds From Pharma to Academia

Here’s a look from Bayer at their experiences providing vitamin D receptor ligands to the academic community over the last twenty years (which takes the compounds back into their Schering AG origins). Overall, they’ve found that the compounds seem to have helped the various research groups along quite a bit, and have led to a good number of publications (with about a 33% conversion rate). This comparison was interesting, I thought:

[In 2003-3013} a total of 121 requests were received (Fig. 1c). Briefly, to request compounds, the academic group completes a one-page non-confidential research project plan that is then reviewed by Bayer scientists. In addition, the academic institution has to review a sample transfer agreement (STA). The compound is dispatched if there are no reasonable objections against the research plan and if the STA is signed and returned.
The overall success rate for requests was high (71%, or 86 of 121 requests), although there were regional differences. Requesters from the United States had a lower chance of receiving the compound than did requesters from other countries. . .Based on archived e-mail communications, the review and execution of the STA was the main cause of delay. Quite frequently, US institutions had either questions or concerns about the STA, or the US investigator never returned the STA template to Bayer.
A first request from an academic scientist for a compound from the VDR ligand cluster took an average of 99 days to fulfill (data on 19 requests available). This time was mostly spent on processing the STA. A second request from the same scientist took an average of just 57 days to fulfil (n = 11 requests). Even when successful, requests from the United States took substantially longer, with an average request time of 152 days (n = 4 requests) compared with 85 days for non-US institutions (n = 15 requests).

They say near the end of the article that they’ve now revised the language of the STA, but as far as I can see, they don’t say if some part of it in particular was a common sticking point, or what changes they made. That seems like it would be a worthwhile piece of information; I’m surprised that it was left out. . .

12 comments on “Transferring Compounds From Pharma to Academia”

  1. hypnos says:

    That fits with my experience: There is a lot of talk about “open research” in both industry and academia. But as soon as the lawyers spring into action, things get slow, annoying and complicated. Even basic things such as the court of jurisdiction can be show stoppers.

  2. anon says:

    My experience in academia with pharma providing compounds is that if you want it, they will insist on:
    -any data obtained using that compound,
    -data on all compounds (not even just theirs),
    -IP rights to any compounds discovered inn the project after their compound is analyzed (ridiculous!)
    and many other non-starters.
    If you plan on patenting anything, don’t even ask.

  3. Matt says:

    Yep where i work IP rights staying with the pharma is an issue and kills any chance of things like this happening.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @2: Pharma companies make all those demands because they know they can. They have nothing to lose by insisting that they own every last dime that might ever come out of it, so why wouldn’t they? Either way, whether the institutions agree or not, it’s their problem.

  5. anon says:

    In my case I asked for an undeveloped tool compound to use as an assay standard.
    I could use it, so long as they could then own everything that we would subsequently discover while using that assay.

  6. anon says:

    In my case I asked for an undeveloped tool compound to use as an assay standard.
    I could use it, so long as they could then own everything that we would subsequently discover while using that assay.

  7. anon2 says:

    “In my case I asked for an undeveloped tool compound to use as an assay standard.”
    Talk to your friendly neighborhood chemist

  8. hypnos says:

    “If you plan on patenting anything, don’t even ask.”
    Well, if you plan to file a patent (instead of “just” publishing a paper…), thats not really “Academia” anymore. I know that many researchers and research institutions are keen on patenting stuff nowadays, but if thats your goal (and you thus behave like a company), why do you want to be treated differently? Then, this essentially becomes an outlicensing deal that has to be negotiated like any other licensing deal.

  9. Academic111 says:

    @Hypnos: Its not so ideologically black and white. Yes its expected that if a pharma just provides a compound to an academic for research that the pharma isn’t paying for, some rights are expected to the pharma if an invention is made by the academic. However, there are reasonable terms and egregious ones. Reasonable terms include rights for the pharma to SEE all the data whereas egregious terms would be that the pharma OWN all the data. Reasonable is the pharma asks for an automatic non-exclusive license with an option to negotiate for an exclusive, egregious is for the pharma to automatically own all the novel IP generated by the academic. If more pharmas worked with a truly collaborative mindset (and many currently do) they would realize the greater value of a carrot than a stick.

  10. hypnos says:

    @Academic111: We can certainly agree on that (your last sentence). However, egreious claims are also frequently made by academics. Nobody is going to pay x% of the annual sales of a drug to a researcher that contributed vaguely to its discovery (by means of an assay system / knockout animal / crystal structure etc.). The “reasonable terms” are thus the result of a negotiation (and not its starting point). And that takes unfortunately a lot of time in many cases.

  11. anon says:

    10: the royalties are typically negotiated at a level of fractions of one percent. I think for the taxol patents it was 0.5%.
    When a company licenses another company’s patent the costs are much higher, so to suggest that the academics are taking advantage of the pharma partner on a routine basis is pretty silly.

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