The drug industry is undergoing some significant changes, which are especially unpleasant for those seeking employment. Large pharmaceutical companies are cutting jobs and outsourcing many of them to India. Consequently, R&D departments are shrinking, so there's reduced research that has to be made up somewhere else.
Pfizer is forming a network through their Global Centers for Therapeutic Innovation to take the results of academic research into the production of drugs. The University of California, San Francisco is the first to partner up with Pfizer and will get $85 million in the next five years. Such partnerships have obvious advantages. Big companies can conduct research at a reduced cost, while university labs benefit from having additional funding sources. It might also help interested postdoctoral and graduate students transition more smoothly into industrial positions, few as they may be.
However, there are inherent conflicts between industry and academia. Pharmaceutical companies are primarily interested in making a profit, which doesn't exactly complement academia's purpose to teach and research simply for the sake of advancing knowledge. It seems that collaborations between industry and academia will require compromises. Either companies will have to be less profit driven or academia labs will have to be more aware of the market.
Another big question involves publications, the currency of academia. Will academic labs be able to freely publish research conducted through collaborations? These concerns will have to be addressed for programs like Pfizer's Global Centers for Therapeutic Innovation to work. How the University of California, San Francisco conducts business with Pfizer in the next five years will show us how well academia and industry can merge.