Academia-industry collaboration is the need of the hour for the Pharma industry

A synergy between academia and industry is essential for the growth and innovation of the medical fields, particularly for pharma and biotech fields. Highly trained professionals with a background in academia could really move research years forward for society with the right kind of industry support. Industry-academia collaboration can benefit both sectors greatly, with a ripple social impact for the entire healthcare sector.

The symbiotic relation between pharma and institutions:

Besides the obvious fact that intellectual labor is something Universities are abundant with, there are other needs that such collaborations serve for the Industries. For the institutions, it furthers the knowledge for academics who are working on these joint projects, while their pupils both gain industry experience and receive the golden opportunity of being placed into a good company and having hands-on experience at research.

Pharma giants like GSK, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson pledged a pool of 40 million euros in 2016 to finance the research done in institutions Cambridge University, Imperial College of London and University London College. These partnerships increase the likelihood of success for both parties, a real-life example of a non-zero sum game.

Solving the capital crunch of Universities

Most Indian universities suffer from a capital crunch as most states of the country receive a measly education budget each year. Universities lack the resources and basic infrastructure to fill in for the needs of millions of students who pass out each year. In many parts of the world, governments are involved in alliances such as this, paving the way for scientific advancements by providing necessary legislative and regulatory support.

With state-wide budget which is a fraction of what’s required to provide the right kind of infrastructure, the majority of the youth will not be able to receive the minimum requisites in academic training and experience. In such a scenario, collaborative efforts by industries where they can pool in resources to fund educational programs and expensive research equipment will go a long way in reducing the state’s burden.

Industry-academia collaborations are statistically proven to drive results

For pharma industries, finding a pool of talented and intelligent professionals who can accelerate the timeline from idea to innovation is incentive enough but that’s not all. Another thing motivating the industry to chase institutions is the statistical results of such collaborations.

Take the example of a report released by the Europe Medicines Agency about clinical drugs approved by the FDA. A staggering 17% of 94 new drugs produced were a result of some academia-industry collaboration. With such drastically improved outcomes, this model of collaboration yielded better results for pharma companies while costing much lower than collaborations with privately owned R&D companies.

The socio-economic effects of Pharma and academia collaborations

Pharmaceutical companies are open to collaborative efforts with institutions, especially in nations like India which have a booming young population. India’s pharma sector has benefitted and experienced sporadic growth as a result of such collaborations  (after 2006 reforms in the patent laws). The industry is excited to absorb the vast pool of raw talent which could be responsible for creating their next blockbuster drug.

These alliances may reduce the timeline on the discovery of innovations that ultimately solve social and developmental issues that many developing nations are facing such as unclean water and sanitation issues, famine due to crop mortality, increased disease burden due to epidemics and more.

This is already taking place on certain parts of the globe, Universities like Macquarie of Australia have innovated in the fields of parasite detection to keep drinking water clean and drought-resistant crops all while in collaboration with industry. Academics working at these institutions (whether it be at Universities or Hospitals) receive the necessary funding from corporate patrons to further knowledge of a particular subject in a time when academia is feeling the crunch of cuts in their funding.

In India, Pharma companies such as ZIM Labs are leading the charge in Academia-Industry collaborations by partnering with universities such as RTMNU (RashtrasantTukadojiMaharaj Nagpur University) to bolster academic and research operations and to enable youth from these universities to access world class infrastructure, resources, and mentorship.

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