June 2011

Roy Vagelos: forging links between academia and industry

The reputation of collaborations between industry and academia has suffered in recent years from undisclosed financial ties and perceived conflicts of interest (5, 6). These must be dealt with explicitly and with maximal transparency to ensure the reliability of research findings, proper design of clinical trials and avoidance of corruption of the prescribing behavior of physicians. But all of us must work together to promote strategic research interactions between academia and industry.

As the NIH prepares to establish a National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, ASBMB urges NIH to leverage what industry brings to the table rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Congress and the public are justified in wanting cures, but they will not be there if we stop supporting basic research. Drug company breakthroughs are few and far between, and when existing drugs stop working, it is only the basic science that can help industry determine what tack to take next. There was no Gleevec before we knew about tyrosine kinases. And given that we have no idea what a large proportion of human genes do, there is plenty of fundamental research that still needs to be done.

Thank you, Roy Vagelos, for your outstanding contributions, your advocacy for basic research, and your continued support of ASBMB.


1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R.D., and Hill, R.L. (2005) Fatty acid synthesis and glutamine synthetase: the work of Earl Stadtman. J. Biol. Chem. 280, e23.
2. Park, B. S. Thressa Stadtman: how does vitamin B12 function?
3. Park, B. S. Thressa Stadtman: pioneer of selenium biochemistry
4. Kresge, N., Simoni, R.D., and Hill, R.L. (2005) The role of the acyl carrier protein in fatty acid synthesis: the work of P. Roy Vagelos. J. Biol. Chem. 280, e32.
5. Vagelos, P. R. (2007) Innovation and industry-academia interactions: where conflicts arise and measures to avoid them. Cleve. Clin. J. Med. 74, Suppl. 2:S12 – 3.
6. Johnston, S. C., Hauser, S. L., and Desmond-Hellmann, S. (2011) Enhancing ties between academia and industry to improve health. Nat. Med. 17, 434 – 436.

Suzanne PfefferASBMB President Suzanne Pfeffer (pfeffer@stanford.edu) is a professor of biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


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