How to get biotech from the bench to the bedside

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The notion of “translational medicine” — moving clinical discoveries from the lab bench to the patient’s beside more quickly — has been much discussed in recent years. And it makes a great deal of sense.  After all, if a discovery can be fast-tracked to use (safely) in patient care, and stands a chance of helping, why not get it to the patient?

Unfortunately, it seems that the rigid walls separating academia, medicine and the biotech world have prevented this concept from maturing, despite countless NIH grants designed to foster such exchanges.

But what if these potential partners had a compelling reason to stop being so standoffish and cooperate?  It just might move the ball forward, notes NG Pharma magazine:

“While the drop in [NIH]  funding poses a large challenge for the academic community – requiring institutions to be smarter and more effective with their resources, biotechs fall at the other end of the spectrum – with plenty of monetary resources but lacking efficiency with their spending. Together, academia would be able to retrieve samples for further study and scientific papers, while biotechs could take part in material transfers and sharing intellectual property.”

Here’s a simple idea:  Help people doing the research at biotechs and universities get to know each other, suggests Dr. Francesco Marincola, Chief of the Infectious Disease and Immunogenetics Section in the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Clinical Center of NIH.

“Those [relationships] I find to be very feasible and fruitful most of the way and they’re simply based on one thing: trust. If you can have an exchange based on trust, that’s the only thing that really matters. A trustful relationship is most likely to occur between investigators and small biotech companies because of their direct relationship with the decision makers,” Marincola says.

That sounds great. But who’s going to be responsible for fostering these relationships — and how will they do it?  Unlocking the potential for a quick research-to-patient care may be medical research question of this decade.

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