Industry-Sponsored Research Week
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Research consortium pledges to use universal SRA to attract industry sponsors

By David Schwartz
Published: May 16th, 2017

The Wistar Institute and a group of regional academic institutions involved in life sciences discoveries have launched the Philadelphia Research Consortium, a preclinical research network for facilitating easy access to the region’s “robust research enterprise.” A key component is a pledge consortium members have made to the start-up and biotech communities to use a universal sponsored research agreement with all potential partners. It’s a pledge the consortium members have high hopes for.

“We believe it will be a very attractive feature for potential sponsors, as they consider where to invest their resources in research,” says Greg Baker, director of the Washington, DC-based Children’s National Health System’s Office of Innovation and Technology Commercialization, a consortium member. “It will help streamline contracting because the industry partner is less likely to make major changes if it knows the universal SRA is essentially a standard template being adopted by all members.” The terms, he adds, are fairly consistent with the guidelines Children’s National already prefers to see in its sponsored research agreements — and they’re industry standard as well.

For many pharma, medical device and biotech companies, Baker points out, working with academia can be attractive and cost-effective — but working out the contractual details can be onerous. “Thus all members of the consortium instantly become more attractive research partners for industry,” he says. Members are not legally required to use the exact SRA, but he expects they’ll “make a good faith effort to do so,” adding that the consortium members hope “industry partners will recognize this value and come to the mid-Atlantic region more frequently to engage in sponsored research.”

Alan Snyder, vice president and associate provost of research and graduate studies at consortium member Lehigh University, adds that a standardized SRA lowers transaction costs for everyone involved. “Companies in particular that are working to move compounds through their R&D pipelines are sensitive to the time and effort required to get agreements in place,” he says. “A standardized SRA makes the terms clear in advance, saving both companies and universities the effort of arriving at workable terms for each individual partner.”

And by resolving the question of whether suitable terms can be reached with a given partner, a standardized SRA “frees companies and universities to partner according to best fit of needs, capabilities and research interests,” he emphasizes. “Rather than the question being ‘with whom can we come to workable contract terms?’ the question is: ‘which would be the most productive partnership based on the people, their interests and their capabilities?’”

Spearheading the consortium’s launch is Heather A. Steinman, PhD, MBA, Wistar’s vice president for business development and executive director of technology transfer. Her vision for the alliance is two-fold, she says: to enable “transformative, potentially lifesaving scientific progress” and to “catalyze productive, long-term collaborations between the Philadelphia academic research community and for-profit research and development partners, specifically targeting life sciences start-ups.”

A big component is the universal SRA, she emphasizes. “It’s a huge deal for the start-ups,” she comments. “Essentially, they can go from any member to another member to another research organization with a different area of expertise. It’s easy to plug into the entire innovation fabric of the Philadelphia region, based on their specific needs, without having to negotiate multiple agreements. There are no administrative barriers and no fees. Just a means to connect start-ups with the institutes they want to do research with.”

A detailed article on the consortium and the standardized SRA appears in the May issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. For more information on the publication and details about a $100-off charter subscription offer, CLICK HERE


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