March 12, 2012

Jan Lundberg, Eli Lilly and Co.’s executive vice president of science and technology, discussed the Indianapolis-based drugmaker’s latest efforts to improve its research and development efforts. Lilly has created two new programs, a fellowship for post-doctoral students and a Research Awards program for established academic researchers. Both offer the opportunity to partner with Lilly’s scientists—and perhaps to receive funding or access to research tools—to help advance the academics' research projects. Lilly hopes its new programs put more academic research into the public view, but also to give its scientists earlier access to key breakthroughs.

IBJ: Why does reaching out to individual academic researchers make sense now?

A: Lilly has a very long history of benefiting from academic relationships, starting with the licensing of insulin with Banting and Best in the 1920s. We now have a more flexible system for doing more rapid agreements. And not necessarily linking it to specific universities, but the leading researchers [in a specific research area] in a group.

IBJ: What is the advantage of this different approach?

A: We already have programs of public-private partnerships in a number of [research] areas, where it involves several academic institutions, several pharma companies, several regulators, several stakeholders. This program is more flexible, it’s more nimble and hopefully can capture much earlier where breakthroughs actually happen. … We have seen examples in the past where it could have taken up to one year for negotiating before we could even start working with academic researchers. That is totally unacceptable.

IBJ: What sort of rights will Lilly ask for from the academic researchers?

A: What we want to do, where it makes sense, is to secure the intellectual property but also to publish the work and publish the data. [But] we want to have some exclusivity and not share it with 10 other pharma companies. That will depend on the specific project and the relative contribution of Lilly’s group and the academic group. We are very open to looking at a number of arrangements.



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