For the third episode of our ‘Responsible Science’, we dive deep into the world of scientific industry – companies which bring science out of the lab, into the real world, and turn a profit at the same time.
Before we begin, a big shout out to the wonderful team at Cell Signaling Technology who have come on board as our series supporter – so a huge thanks to them for adding to the vision, and making this crucial conversation a reality.
We chat to two key leaders in the world of scientific industry:
- Josh Ghaim, CTO of Consumer R&D at Johnson & Johnson
- Roby Polakiewicz, CSO at Cell Signaling Technology
We chatted about how corporates can be responsible as well as commercially savvy in sharing information and contributing back to academia.
Josh says: “For us, the more transparent we are, the better outcome we get. To give an example, a few years back, we made a decision to release all of our clinical data. It started in pharma, now we’re doing it for our other sectors too. We do a lot of clinical trials. But a lot of times in our industry, that’s not public. You might see it, somebody talking about the results being presented, but all the data is never released. In this case, we made a decision that we need to be transparent. And you never know if some of the clinical trials might advance some other discoveries, but you also have to be responsible.”
We also spoke about how different motivations drive different stakeholders in science, but that needn’t be a reason to assume conflict and bad reasons for certain decisions.
Roby explained: “We have very different motivations. The folks at the academic lab are trying to get a high profile paper published so that he or she can get a faculty position. A researcher in pharma is trying to move forward their program, and obviously help patients, but also get promoted. The journals are trying to publish the best possible papers. And obviously they have some financial motivation. And we are companies, private companies trying to participate in all that, and push the best science we can. But we’re also trying to be successful commercially. So some interests are separate, but in the end we’re all playing in the same field: we’re all trying to push science in the right direction.”
A fascinating part of the discussion also centred around the concept of what kind of science and commercialisation is the best to be focusing on, and how public and private organisations can come together better – Josh had some strong views on ensuring you can do good business and also do good to the world around it.
“Take orphan drug potential. We can often trade that’s amiss between public and private. Because, yes, sometimes industry will look at it and say, well it’s going to cost me X dollars to get that to the market in orphan drugs. If you can provide access to people who can afford it, people might not afford it, so you give it away. Or you give it at cost. All of those discussions are on-going. But there’s an opportunity. We’ll continue to keep looking at creating public-private relationships that allows the balance: that industry is not trying to make all profit, and governments and public institutions are not looking for just give-aways and everything… To give you an idea where J&J, GSK and others jumped in very quickly: Ebola. We didn’t make any money off of it, but it was the right thing to do. And it’s amazing to see the capacity to build, to get to clinical trials at record time. That’s a perfect example of public-private, even on the private side, of different industries actually coming together. Companies that are considered competitors, actually coming together to get a fast result, was very impressive. And now the question is: how do you model that on an on-going basis to address the biggest challenges, and not just wait for a crisis to happen?”
Up next: we chat to those people working hard to communicate science, and the process of research, as openly and responsibly as possible, and ask the question, how can we better discuss, report on and ultimately translate what is happening in the world of science?