The vitality and integrity of biomedical research are critical to the health of the public and to finding the keys to addressing some of society’s most compelling and difficult challenges. In the United States, universities and medical schools, the dominant source of this research, are now more than ever key components of the social, economic and scientific forces that empower our nation in a globalized economy. The academic research community is increasingly aware of pressures created by these changed societal expectations, particularly those associated with its relationships with industry. A principled partnership between the academic community and industry is essential if we are to realize the promise of biomedical research, but such collaboration can also create serious conflicts of interest. These pressures compel academic institutions to reaffirm their highest values of protecting the integrity of their research, the well being of the human subjects who participate in it, and the trust of the public.
Dear Senator Frist: Recent allegations that conflicts of interest may have affected the integrity of biomedical research and led to harming human research subjects have heightened concerns about the financial relationships between individual research investigators or their research institutions and private industry. The Bayh-Dole Act, enacted in 1980, facilitated research collaborations between private industry and research institutions such as universities, and since then, financial relationships between them have grown.1 In biomedical research, these relationships often pair academic research expertise and facilities with industry resources for technology transfer in order to bring innovations from the laboratory into practical medical application. The increase in financial collaborations has paralleled 2 decades of rapid growth in federal and private biomedical research spending, now reaching into the billions of dollars each year.2 These financial partnerships and research funding have yielded significant achievements, notably treatments for diseases and conditions such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and strokes.
Research universities are concerned about financial conflict of interest because it strikes to the heart of the integrity of the institution and the public’s confidence in that integrity.
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