Drug researchers can go for gold

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of pharmaceutical companies and advisers is putting pounds 500,000 of funding behind a new prize for British research scientists. But the winners will receive little but prestige.

The aim of the award, the first of its kind in this country, is to reward research scientists for their work in discovering the drugs of the future.

The pounds 500,000 is to pay independent research assessors and finance the award ceremony. The winners will receive gold medals and citations.

"The British pharmaceutical industry pours pounds 1bn a year into research and development," said a spokesman for the consortium. "Despite this, of around 5,000 potential medicines that are formulated every year, only one or two go on to reach the prescription market. In many instances, very large sums have been spent only to have the research project abandoned.

"Our aim in supporting the new award is to increase public recognition for those involved in research, whether as individuals or teams. All too often, they receive little acknowledgement outside their own scientific field."

Chaired by Sir Colin Dollery, dean of the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Medicine of the University of London, the judging panel includes two Nobel winners for Medicine, Sir James Black and Sir John Vane.

The panel will be judging the Prix Galien for development, as well as the new award for research. A shortlist of up to five entries per award will be drawn up in November.

"Research and development is the life's-blood of the pharmaceutical industry," Sir Colin said. "Often the originality of the research and the achievement of the individual researchers receive inadequate public recognition because the work is done in teams and the projects take years to come to fruition.

"We have some of the best pharmaceutical researchers to be found anywhere, and our industry has developed products that have benefited millions of sick people throughout the world. But future success must not be taken for granted, and it's about time we stopped being `British' and gave fulsome recognition to pharmaceutical innovation as one of our major national achievements."

The final winners in both categories of this year's Prix Galien will be announced at an awards ceremony in January, when a gold medal and citation from the advisory board will be presented by the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Tom Sackville.

The sponsors are the German drugs company Bayer, Schering Plough and IMS of the United States, the Anglo-American pharmaceutical group SmithKline Beecham, lawyers Simmons & Simmons, accountants Coopers & Lybrand and medical publisher Reed Healthcare.