University-Private Sector Research Partnerships

Imagine the effect the discovery of an alternate source of energy would have on our country and our economy - perhaps garbage from landfills could be used as cheap, clean, and "green" sources of energy. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

University-Private Sector Research Partnerships

This would liberate us forever from dependence on foreign oil. perhaps the cures for aids, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease are right around the corner. Future generations would be spared an enormous toll of human suffering. I personally believe we are on the threshold of these types of research breakthroughs.

University-private sector research partnerships offer great potential for the benefit of society if properly overseen.

In the us, the majority of research is conducted within university laboratories. The federal government, in turn, funds most of this research. Universities already have the legal right to patent products of research funded by the federal government, as a result of the landmark bayh-dole act of 1980.

The intent of this legislation was to protect federal research investment dollars and expedite the application of generated research for the public good. The bayh-dole act caused a dramatic increase in patents within universities. In fact, most universities now have technology transfer offices to protect their intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property is a potential source of revenue for money-strapped universities. During the present economic meltdown, government aid to universities is being slashed. My university, for example, has already lost $15 million dollars in state funds during the first two months of this year alone. The monies generated from patents, royalties, and intellectual property rights can assist in furnishing operating capital for the university. This valuable source of income can also be used to fund research in biotechnology, the health sciences, energy, and informational technology.

One notable argument against allowing universities to market their own research is that this may disadvantage the private industry. Some reason that tax dollars should not be used to furnish profitable income to nonprofit institutions, as it hampers the "free market" system by allowing universities to have a clear upper hand over private industries.

Another more-compelling "con" is this practice encourages close ties between universities and private industries, which may foster questionable research practices due to conflicts of interests. Research subject safety may be compromised. Tragedies may result from ethical breaches, such as the 1999 death of Jesse Gelsinger during the gene therapy trial at the Institute for gene therapy at the University of Pennsylvania. In this well-publicized case, the University of Pennsylvania and Genovo Corporation were in partnership for gene therapy research. There were numerous violations of federal research regulations that ultimately resulted in this student's death from the experimental treatment.

Universities need to have clear protocols in place to help prevent unethical business and research practices and also to allow individual researchers to be fairly compensated for their work. Intellectual property rights must be safeguarded. Sometimes the interests of the university may conflict with the interests of the faculty or inventor. Bayh-dole requires the university to either develop the invention or turn the invention rights over to the inventor.

All in all, I believe that universities should be able to continue to profit from their research. Public-private research collaborations should continue, as long as stringent ethical safeguards are in place and open public scrutiny is allowed.


Office of Science and Technology Policy

Shamoo, A. E., & Resnik, d. b. (2003). responsible conduct of research. new york: oxford university press.

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