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New study profiles the biomedical consortia landscape

F2.largeOf the 369 consortia that we researched, the majority were focused on creating resources that advance research for a specific medical condition, and most research being performed by AD, diabetes, and cancer consortia was focused on biomarker development. This goal is aligned with current trends in the pharmaceutical industry, which is focused increasingly on molecularly targeted therapies. However, balancing proprietary strategy with risk reduction and shared expertise becomes a challenge for consortia (14). Most have decided that specific druggable targets are proprietary, but diagnostic biomarkers that can stratify patients into subgroups are considered to be precompetitive and broadly usable information (1517). For example, biomarkers validated through a consortium such as I SPY2 also must be recognized by a regulatory body for their indication, becoming potential gold-standard resources that can be leveraged by drug developers as well as the basic oncology, diagnostic, and imaging communities. A related challenge facing a consortium is the need to maintain a collaborative environment of trust, assuring participants that their resources are not being used to provide a special advantage to one of their competitors. A consortium does this by creating a “precompetitive” collaborative space, in which the shared need is the focal point of the partnership and is surrounded by borders that provide an assurance that the tool or resource is useful to the broader research community, including those not directly involved in the partnership. This motivation for collaborating to benefit the wider community also helps to address antitrust concerns.

The consortium provides a safe harbor with guarantees of transparency, using legal agreements that make sure each participant receives equitable benefits and access to the final product, with opportunities to monitor and adjust the projects through a formal governance process. Neutral organizations and government agencies that receive no direct benefit from the output have taken the majority of responsibility in identifying and validating shared needs, advancing consortia established by others, and creating the precompetitive space for collaboration (2). Many independent nongovernment organizations, such as the Critical Path Institute (C-Path), FNIH, and Reagan-Udall Foundation, were created to assist a U.S. government agency and thus have similar interests in secondary outcomes relating to societal benefits (table S2)—which renders these organizations accountable to the broader scientific and patient communities.

Click here to read more from this June 25, 2014 Science article by Mark D. Lim.

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