UCLA slams the door on GlaxoSmithKline's latest R&D competition

GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) latest attempt to enlist the academic community in its translational research efforts has won a chilly reception from the upper echelon of University of California, Los Angeles. A few days ago university honchos told the faculty that GSK's Discovery Fast Track competition--which skirts little details like upfront contracts and such--was strictly off limits, according to a report from Inside Higher Education.

The primary hang-up at UCLA revolves around intellectual property rights. And they see GSK as an intruder potentially looking to walk away with something that isn't rightfully theirs. 

"Please be advised that the terms and conditions do not adhere to UC policy because faculty have prior and ongoing obligations under the patent policy to disclose all discoveries to the university and have assigned patent rights to the university. Participation in the GSK competition would violate these policies and obligations," said an e-mail from James S. Economou, vice chancellor for research, and Brendan J. Rauw, associate vice chancellor for research and executive director of entrepreneurship, according to IHE.

The closed-door policy at UCLA underscores the often tense relationship between academic investigators with bright new ideas and the pharma companies that hope to capitalize on their next-gen thinking. While many groups have advocated a more open environment for research, not everyone is ready to pitch in before there's a contract in place to specify who owns what.

"This opens up our entire portfolio to a pharma company with no guarantee that our rights will be protected," Rauw told the publication. UCLA has a policy to negotiate rights before any collaboration can begin.

GSK, though, set up the discovery competition with an eye to avoiding the "bottleneck" often found during contract negotiations. Academic investigators were free to suggest a drug-development program and GSK would screen the target against its extensive compound library. Winners got to work with a GSK team on exploring its potential.

Just don't look for anyone from UCLA to participate.

- here's the story from Inside Higher Education

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