Funding Ripple Effects

December 2, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2006, Volume 30, Issue 12

Poor support of drug- and process-development training programs will affect industry's future growth.

Money can't buy love or happiness. But, it can purchase a major say in what research is performed and what training fledgling scientists receive.

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner

Funders such as the National Institutes of Health dole out millions of dollars each year for university pharma research programs, thus determining the research agenda and influencing the education and hands-on experience students receive. But how much of this money is earmarked for pharmaceutical technology research?

Very little, it seems, and the consequences are causing a huge ripple effect in our industry. Larry Augsburger, University of Maryland professor and Pharm Tech editorial advisory board member, outlined the situation at the "Future of Pharmaceutical Technology" AAPS session. Drug- and process-development research don't generally attract the big federal and foundation grants. Though these programs do get some industry funding, universities treat these as second-class gifts, diminishing their prestige and discouraging faculty from embarking on such poorly supported research. These stepchild programs, in turn, cannot produce desperately needed new scientists who are highly skilled in drug and process development.

Pharm Tech's 2006 employment survey backs this scenario. Just 28% of respondents say their education prepared them very well for their jobs. And according to an AAPS education committee survey, half of pharma companies don't do on-job training and must engage in intense recruitment of qualified new scientists.

The problem has no easy answer, but Augsburger may have been on to something when he said, "We need a new skill set." Restructuring traditional programs in favor of an interdisciplinary approach (combining chemistry and engineering, for example) as well as pooling resources and skills into a multiuniversity organization (such as the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Education) are a start. But overall, industry, grant givers, and regulatory bodies must rethink their support of university pharmaceutical technology programs and their commitments to new scientists entering our field. The future growth of the industry depends on it.

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner is the managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology, kchiarello@advanstar.com