Sharon Begley, the esteemed science columnist of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), notes a trend of philanthropists shifting their dollars to private industry in order to get new cures to patients faster than by funding ever-newer and slower generations of lab researchers and rats.
“It’s a sign of desperation. One reason there have been so few drug breakthroughs lately is that the profit motive actually works against the development of new pharmaceuticals. Drug companies suffer from blockbuster-itis, the belief that only billion-dollar almost-sure things need apply for development. As a result, even the most brilliant discovery may not be translated into a drug unless it has 10-figure sales potential. Also, short time horizons on the part of venture capitalists, who generally want to see their biotech bets pay off in three years, don’t mesh well with the lengthy drug-development process.”
And the Washington Post reports that one-time liberal Rep. Pat Schroeder, now a lobbyist for academic journals, has hired a public relations “pit bull” to Swift-Boat disease advocacy groups and the National Institutes of Health. Seems Ms. Schroeder and her academic publisher constituents hate the idea of free access to new science and will do anything necessary to preserve their monopoly on knowledge.
“The fix? For a six-month fee of $300,000 to $500,000, (the consultant) told the association’s professional and scholarly publishing division, he could help — in part by simplifying the industry’s message to a few key phrases that even a busy senator could grasp. Phrases like: ‘Public access equals government censorship,’ and ‘government [is] seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher.'”