Academic medical centers and teaching hospitals ‘‘have particular missions that justify their tax-exempt status,’’ Angell said. ‘‘They’re supposed to educate the next generation of doctors. They’re supposed to be doing cutting-edge research, not just research on drugs ... and they’re supposed to be taking care of the sickest and neediest people in society.’’
That public-service mission is ‘‘quite different from the mission of investor-owned companies. They’re supposed to maximize profits.’’
In addition to its efforts in St. Louis and San Francisco, Pfizer has entered into similar research partnerships with the University of California at San Diego, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, the University of Massachusetts and seven academic medical centers in New York City.
Neither Pfizer’s competitors nor the university partners are standing idle.
Harvard also has a research deal with French manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis and Belgian drug maker UCB. The Yale School of Medicine has a multiyear cancer research collaboration with Gilead Sciences Inc., a California company that sells HIV treatments such as Atripla and Truvada. And the University of Pennsylvania has an umbrella agreement with Astra Zeneca PLC, whose U.S. headquarters are just down the road in Delaware.
Bluestone, a former Pfizer advisory board member, is aware of both the promise and the pitfalls of these partnerships. He called the truncated St. Louis effort ‘‘a great project’’ that fell victim to a shift in corporate priorities after Pfizer’s 2009 purchase of rival Wyeth for $68 billion.
‘‘We've gone into this thing with our eyes wide open,’’ he said. ‘‘Some (experiments) may work, some may not. Some may disappear next year.’’
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier