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Associated Press

Posted on January 10, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Drug companies forge partnerships with top universities; some academic purists have doubts

ST. LOUIS (AP) — In their quest for the next big drug discovery, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly teaming up with some of the nation's top universities, recruiting campus scientists as partners and offering schools multimillion-dollar deals to work on experimental drugs in development.

Big Pharma has long sought to profit from academia's innovations in more limited arrangements. Now the two sides are often joining forces as equals. But the drug makers' aggressive pursuit of university research has drawn the ire of academic purists who question whether the partnerships put profits ahead of, or on equal footing with, science for science's sake.

"What it does is to blur the boundaries between academic medical centers and investor-owned companies," said Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and a prominent critic of the pharmaceutical industry's new coziness with major campuses.

Pfizer Inc., Astra Zeneca PLC and Eli Lilly and Co. are among the major international drug companies signing agreements with schools such as New York University, Harvard and the University of California at San Francisco.

Driving the change is the expiration of patents for such lucrative name-brand drugs as Seroquel, Lipitor and Protonix, which industry observers say accounted for nearly $36 billion in U.S. sales in 2011 and 2012. More than ever, drug makers need new revenue to replace diminished profits from drugs that now have generic rivals.

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