30-10-2013

Knowledge transfer: from basic research to industry and the markets

Recently, the swiss company Biocartis and Hospital del Mar announced their license agreement that enables Biocartis to develop a new colon cancer test. The test is based on research results published by Dr Montagut and her team in Nature medicine on 2012. They described a specific epidermal growth factor receptor mutation which makes colorectal tumours resistant to cetuximab, whilst they remain sensitive to treatment with panitumumab. This is a clear example of how basic research results derive into benefits for the society, in this case by allowing better and personalised therapy for colon cancer according to each patient’s characteristics. Often it is perceived that basic research results have scarce or none practical applicability. And sometimes this is true, as basic research seeks knowledge as an objective itself, independently from market parameters. But fundamental research also leads to innovative and applicable new ideas. In biomedical research, for example, better knowledge of molecular mechanisms involved in pathologies enables finding new and more efficient therapeutic alternatives.

Catalan researchers publish at a comparable level to other European countries of similar size, such as the Netherlands or Denmark. However, transfer is one of the debilities of our research system, and when we compare Catalonia with these countries on patents per million of inhabitants or the ratio publications/patents, our results are not so good. Therefore, we should not forget basic research, it is necessary to foster it and provide stability and continuity to research projects, but at the same time knowledge transference has to be one of our priority objectives

Marta Alegret (Universitat de Barcelona)

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