Industry-Sponsored Research Week
Industry-Sponsored Research Management

Be ready to respond when bad publicity over industry-sponsored research hits


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

There’s a decent chance that someone sooner or later will complain about one of the industry-funded research projects your institution takes part in. It happens all the time — usually taking aim at perceived industry bias or faculty COIs.

Often, the criticism is off the mark or just plain wrong, and no one rushes to dignify such comments with a response. But silence is often worse, PR experts say. 

Critics of industry involvement in academic research generally make the same arguments. Here are some typical examples:

  • A coalition of universities faced complaints from a self-professed “national watchdog group” that held a press conference to call their sponsored research agreement a pay-to-play deal.
  • One critic publicly alleged that sponsored research funding from one industry group “always has strings attached.”
  • A university dealt with an article in the campus newspaper that tied industry-funded research to “a cash-strapped campus” that’s “turning to private industry to fund its research.”
  • A school weathered editorial criticism from faculty and allegations that university budgets “underwrite the private sector’s research agenda.”
  • Another institution heard a coalition of unhappy faculty members telling news outlets and national associations that “administrators are bending to the influence of industry.”

In many cases, these negative press reports use ominous or loaded terms, referring to research deals with “some of America’s largest and most controversial corporations,” for example.

University PR experts say when it comes to these types of broadsides, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “Ideally, you take the steps necessary to avoid [these critiques],” comments Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor of public affairs at the University of California at Berkeley. And that start with the initial planning of a research collaboration. “As you consider projects that could attract scrutiny and generate controversy, your communications

people should have a good understanding of exactly how the project will be received,” he says. “Your communications professionals should, as part of their job and expertise, effectively channel external parties as they scrutinize and assess university actions. They should provide

that input at the beginning.”

A big part of prevention should occur well before a deal is signed, with a focus on the agreement and its terms with an eye to any hint that the university’s mission, independence, or transparency are compromised.

“If your institution goes into an agreement that conflicts with your perceived or stated core values, you’re going to have trouble,” Mogulof warns. “If the agreement departs from industry norms, you’re going to have trouble. [And] if there is in the language of the agreement something that suggests you’ve abandoned academic freedom or transparency … the list goes on.”

If you do find yourself caught in a public relations quagmire over an industry research agreement, simply clamming up and hoping the criticism goes away is not the best approach, Mogulof stresses. “If you’re a public institution, you can’t keep it covered up,” he warns. “Eventually everything washes out. And the likelihood it will wash out is proportional to the extent to which the institution wishes it wouldn’t.”

That’s why it’s essential to “enter these things with your eyes open,” he adds, “and understand how circumstance is going to drive perception. Have people at the table who can give you a good sense of how this will be perceived from the outside looking in.”

A detailed article on how to head off negative publicity related to corporate-funded research appears in the December issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and get the full article, and dozens of other case studies and success strategies in the publication’s online archive for subscribers, CLICK HERE.

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Tulane School of Medicine launches immersion program for biotech execs and investors


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

Tulane University School of Medicine has come up with a novel way to create relationships with industry and investors – it has just launched a new In-Residence Immersion Program that offers biotech execs, VCs, scientists and entrepreneurs who are visiting New Orleans a place to work from – and in the process learn about Tulane research.

The program gives executives a temporary home base at Tulane steps away from the pioneering research happening in labs, clinics and classrooms throughout the health sciences campus in the heart of the city’s medical and biotech corridor.

“They are not just visiting. They have an opportunity to become immersed in the community,” said James Zanewicz, School of Medicine chief business officer. “We can arrange for them to meet with our scientists, tour our labs and learn more about our world-class faculty, extensive research portfolio and opportunities for collaboration.”

Zanewicz says the new program will give biotech executives, investors and scientists from larger markets like Boston, San Francisco or San Diego an easy way to learn about the New Orleans research community and opportunities for partnerships. The program could also be attractive for start-ups and entrepreneurs exploring lower-cost markets for operating clinical trials or relocation.

The space can be utilized as little as a day or as long as a few weeks, depending on demand, Zanewicz said.

Source: Tulane University News

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Avoid SBIR/STTR Fraud and Abuse Allegations in University Research


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

Fraud, waste and abuse are major concerns of the federal government, and the SBIR/STTR program is no exception. Every year, researchers, faculty members and small business owners are accused of fraud and misuse of funds resulting in disbarment, required return of funds and even criminal charges.

Whether fraudulent activity is intentional or not, allegations like these have a profound effect on the reputations of those involved and their ability to obtain future funding or attract start-up partners — and the universities involved can suffer a damaging PR backlash as well.

Research managers and TTOs play an important role in ensuring federal rules are followed, researchers are well educated on the proper handling of SBIR/STTR applications and funds, and compliance is tracked throughout the process. That’s why we’ve secured SBIR/STTR funding expert Kristen Parmelee, President of PCG, Inc., to lead this critical webinar on Wednesday, January 31st: Avoid SBIR/STTR Fraud and Abuse Allegations in University Research.

For complete program details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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Vanderbilt, Lundbeck enter research partnership on novel treatment of schizophrenia


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

Vanderbilt University and H. Lundbeck A/S have inked a partnership agreement in an effort to develop a new and more effective treatment for schizophrenia. Under the agreement, Lundbeck also acquires an exclusive license to a Vanderbilt innovation that will address the illness by reducing high levels of dopamine in patients’ brains. continue reading »

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UT-Dallas risk analysis center launches research partnership with French university, looks to build industry ties


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

The International Center for Decision and Risk Analysis (ICDRiA) in the University of Texas-Dallas’s Naveen Jindal School of Management has joined forces in a research partnership with the new Risk and Insurance Institute at Le Mans University in France. The two hope their partnership will be a magnet for industries that depend on risk analysis and mitigation services and technologies. continue reading »

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Best Practices in Forming and Managing Industry-University Partnerships


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

Best Practices in Forming and Managing Industry-University Partnerships is a practical, strategy-filled distance learning collection featuring three detailed programs:

1. Best Practices for Drafting University-Industry Partnership R&D Agreements. Two experts to provide expert guidance on drafting an R&D agreement that will attract industry and drive your research projects forward while also preventing the kinds of problems that can wreak havoc with your involved faculty and damage relationships between you and your researchers — and with industry partners.

2. Managing Conflicts of Interest in Large-Scale Industry Partnerships. To help you navigate the pitfalls while ensuring vibrant and business-savvy collaborations, our attorney faculty provide practical strategies for tackling the broad spectrum of COI issues you will face and must address in today’s large-scale industry partnership initiatives.

3. The Anatomy of a Great Industry-University Partnership. The right partnership will bring not just licensing revenue but critical economic development benefits as well. This session provides insight on how you can craft successful industry partnerships that bring in licensing revenues as well as regional economic benefits for years to come.

For complete details on this valuable collection and to order, CLICK HERE >>

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GeneDx in collaboration with Netherlands medical center to study genetic disease treatments


By David Schwartz
Published: January 16th, 2018

GeneDx Inc., a subsidiary of OPKO Health, Inc. BioReference Laboratories, has entered into a research collaboration with the Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands. continue reading »

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Master the details to effectively manage industry-sponsored research negotiations


By David Schwartz
Published: January 9th, 2018

Negotiating the contracts that underpin industry-sponsored research agreements isn’t getting any easier, no matter how widespread or common those agreements are becoming. And it’s not likely to, either, because each SRA is unique and requires a very nuanced legal document behind it.

Responding to the contracting challenges inherent in university-industry partnerships, the Columbia, SC-based University-Industry Demonstration Project has just announced a once-a month series of hour-long Contracting Connection webinars. Each focuses on a single contracting or engagement issue, starting in January with a look at visiting scholars from private industry — because each issue requires that much focus.

“The reason it takes skilled practitioners to negotiate industry-sponsored research agreements is each project associated with the agreement is unique,” says Anthony M. Boccanfuso, PhD, UIDP president. “Master agreements [can] provide a general structure, but each project has a task order and these contain clauses and conditions based on the unique nature of that project.”

For example, he adds, “some projects have a high likelihood of commercialization, while others have a very small chance,” and contracting language generally bends toward either scenario. Likewise, “some projects require industry-created background intellectual property, while others have university BIP or government funding as a basis.” Again, the impact on contracts is significant and can have a cascading effect on virtually every section of an agreement.

At the same time, each negotiation requires an understanding of the big picture — and “how an agreed-upon project can impact other matters,” he adds. In particular, for example, tax laws can make some negotiations tougher, Boccanfuso notes, because “they set limits on how much industry-directed research can be performed in campus buildings constructed with tax-exempt bonds.”

Another case that requires a wider view is a start-up that has spun out from the university and has limited financial resources, which of course “should be treated differently than a large multi-national that is based overseas and has no track record of working with that school,” he says.

The need for a big picture focus is so important that Boccanfuso says the biggest mistake schools make in contract negotiations is “people doing the negotiating who may not know or recognize how any project fits into the bigger picture and how best to treat that negotiation.” He adds: “At universities, contracting is often delegated to a central authority, usually found in the Office of Research. But enlightened negotiators will work with the faculty researchers, the departments, the colleges and others — including the school’s IP office — to ensure a timely and successful outcome.”

A lot of the difficult work in negotiations will center on one topic, because it’s at or near the top of every list of the toughest parts of a sponsored research contract to negotiate: intellectual property.

“The toughest negotiation points tend to come down to IP rights on background and especially foreground IP,” says Daniel Juliano, PhD, associate director of technology licensing at Montana State University’s Bozeman-based TechLink. “Companies understandably want to be confident they will have freedom to operate, and will sometimes ask for a non-exclusive royalty-free license to BIP and/or FIP.” While their motivation is understandable, it “presents some difficulties for the university,” he adds.

One aspect of a university’s reluctance relates to how the contract will be viewed by the researchers who worked so hard to develop the technology. “Are we harming the inventors of the BIP by ‘giving away’ their IP to secure new research dollars?” Juliano poses. And similarly with FIP, “are the investigators comfortable that the sponsor will have a [non-exclusive royalty-free license]?”

Another set of issues that can complicate negotiation “are tax law considerations involving Unrelated Business Income Tax and the financing of university buildings using tax-exempt bonds,” he notes. IP is such a challenging part of SRAs, in fact, that at the University of Colorado-Boulder, “we brought our IP attorneys to the same floor as the contacting officers, so everybody’s working more concurrently,” says Gary L. Henry, director of contracts at the school’s Office of Contracts & Grants. “We’re not throwing it over the fence. The daily dialog is beneficial.” In fact, it’s helped the school develop strategies for ironing out common IP tangles.

A detailed article on contracting challenges in industry-sponsored research appears in the December issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and access the full article, and gain access to the publication’s entire archive of detailed articles on attracting and managing corporate partnerships, CLICK HERE.

Subscribe to Industry-Sponsored Research Management today and save $100 on the subscription price – CLICK HERE

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Many top universities reject research funding “scam” from Big Tobacco


By David Schwartz
Published: January 9th, 2018

Philip Morris International is attempting to distribute nearly $1 billion for research on reducing smoking. But the grant is being called a “billion dollar bribe” of “blood money,” a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” a “smokescreen,” a “public relations stunt” and the “height of hypocrisy” by critics. The American Cancer Society has even called it a “new twist out of the tobacco industry’s deadly playbook. continue reading »

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Maintaining Compliance with iEdison: A Practical Guide for Universities


By David Schwartz
Published: January 9th, 2018

Universities report frustration keeping current with iEdison reporting requirements, as well as keeping up-to-date information reported in a timely manner. Managing older inventions and weeding through countless notifications can be time-consuming and confusing. On top of all that, ensuring the way you report and update your inventions doesn’t raise compliance red flags is a huge challenge.

That’s why Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has teamed up with attorney Tyson Benson for this critical webinar: Maintaining Compliance with iEdison: A Practical Guide for Universities. In this one-hour session scheduled for January 25th, Mr. Benson will provide practical guidance on how to manage these complex compliance responsibilities.

For complete details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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Nuclear safety innovation in Idaho builds on inter-disciplinary research, and inter-institution collaboration


By David Schwartz
Published: January 9th, 2018

The importance of interdisciplinary partnerships – and in many cases inter-institutional partnerships as well — is being clearly demonstrated by an Idaho collaboration focused on improving the safety and efficiency of nuclear power plants. continue reading »

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North Carolina is the top state in securing industry-funded research


By David Schwartz
Published: January 9th, 2018

A new think tank report released this week shows significant differences in the levels of industry-funded university research taking place in different states, and North Carolina is the clear leader in the report’s rankings. continue reading »

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