In Reply: Interactions between the academic
and industrial research enterprise in medicine are not just recent phenomena
but have existed since the early 20th century. In recent years, however, the
diversity and number of these connections have increased, raising fundamental
questions about the role of both partners in the innovation process. According
to Mr Ehrle, the current interface will lead to a "metastatic ethical meltdown."
We believe that Ehrle's view ignores the main thrust of our argument. First,
the risks of university-industry interactions are indeed important and require
ongoing monitoring and debate. However, this debate needs to be informed by
insight into the current division of labor between organizational partners.
The traditional and familiar answer—academic faculty generate fundamental
knowledge that industry in turn develops and markets—is simplistic and
ignores the extensive flow of knowledge and technology that occurs in both
directions throughout each stage of the innovation process. Second, and related
to this, university-industry interactions have important public health and
economic benefits. It is therefore important that society, and medical school
and hospital leadership in particular, consider how they can maximize the
upsides of collaboration while minimizing the downsides. "Balancing risks
against benefits" is part of this process, not a contradictory position. A
nuanced debate on these issues, rather than absolutist stances, can help shape
the university-industry interface in years to come to optimize medical progress
and benefit the public.