Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
OBE, PROFESSOR SIR
CBE, PROFESSOR JULIA
GOODFELLOW CBE, AND
MONDAY 11 MARCH 2002
80. We talked about poaching, do you find have
you human capital coming in from the private sector, like Glaxo?
(Professor Goodfellow) Yes, we do.
81. Do you have examples of people coming in
from these companies taking less money than they were in the private
(Professor Goodfellow) I do not know enough details
about their salaries.
82. Do you think there is a danger of them coming
in and trying to distort priorities?
(Professor Goodfellow) There are a very wide range
of people that work in public sector bodies. I could not imagine
one person coming to an institute with 800 people and distorting
Chairman: We are going to have a break for 10
The Committee suspended from 17.49 to
17.57 for a Division in the House
83. Can I ask, is there any experience of the
private sector paying for lots of lunches and days out to the
public sector? I do not know if anybody has any experience of
that or not?
(Mr Young) Have we been recipients of this generosity.
(Mr Young) Speaking for myself, no.
85. Can I ask you something completely different.
In terms of some of the partnerships, maybe I can ask Professor
Radda this, if there is a relationship with a private sector partner
who is interested in developing a drug, a kidney drug or whatever
it is, is there a danger that that private sector partner will
want to, as it were, delay overall access in knowledge that we
have for competitive advantage and profiteering against the public
interest, do you find that is a problem?
(Professor Sir George Radda) Perhaps I can answer
that in a more general way. If you look at page 5 of the NAO Report
is actually sets down correctly what our priorities are in our
commercialisation activities. The first and the most important
priority is to able to make sure that the commercial arrangements
are such that they provide the benefit, if you like, the welfare
benefit to the public. That is our number one priority.
86. I appreciate that. If I was in the private
sector and I said to you, I want to develop this drug, it helps
various people but I want to have rights to use it through my
company alone, or whatever, for the first few years to get my
(Professor Sir George Radda) That is clearly part
of the negotiations of what is the best value and what is in the
interest of the public. For example, there is a danger that a
company would take on a licence or an IPR in order to stop producing
that drug because they already have a product that is competitive,
we would clearly try and not agree to such a process. We would
want to have, if you like, that for the public benefit.
87. You are interested in the public benefit.
In terms of the overall distribution of costs is there a danger
here that the public sector take all of the fixed costs and then
the marginal costs are paid for by the private sector and then
the overall profitability, the great share is taken by the private
sector and we are taken to the cleaner, to a certain extent?
(Professor Sir George Radda) We have to rely on the
experts that we employ in negotiating those deals. We have examples
where we have been offered £4 million up front to buy-out
prospective product royaltiesI cannot repeat the company's
name because it is commercially sensitivefor a vaccine
against a respiratory virus and we said that is not good enough
value, our people said that is not good enough, and we turned
it down. We have now made more than £14 million from income
88. You take a fixed cost but you take a share
of profit over time?
(Professor Sir George Radda) It is very common.
89. In so far as you are motivated by maximising
the financial return then the response of that from the private
sector is to try and restrict the opportunities for competitive
entry into that market to make money. There is a conflict between
you maximising your income and the public interest and having
widespread access to the drug we have just been talking about.
(Professor Sir George Radda) Maximising our income
will not be our highest priority, our highest priority is to make
sure that the product will be available for the public for a particular
health treatment, that would be our number one priority. Maximising
our income is the lowest of the priorities we have set down, as
it is recognised in the NAO Report.
90. This company you were deal with £14
million, or whatever it was, and they turned round to you and
said, we will give you £7 million and make it easier to get
access, you would say, fair enough because my priority is not
really about making money.
(Professor Sir George Radda) If you take an equity
stake in a deal with a company, and both the scientists will have
produced that, and also, if you like, you have a much better handle
on how that is being exploited.
91. You mentioned earlier your ethical considerations
are paramount and you would not deal with a cigarette manufacturer,
if a cigarette manufacturer said to you they wanted you to work
with them to produce healthier cigarettes would that not be in
the public interest?
(Professor Sir George Radda) We have not been asked
that question and it is hypothetical. I suspect our council will
consider it extremely carefully. I am pretty sure that the council
would look at it and decide what is in the public interest.
92. Very good answer. I have a general question
about the cultural shift, obviously now the total income is a
small share, 17.5 in broad terms. As that shifts is there a danger
the scientific culture may shift away from the public good towards
always looking for the next buck?
(Professor Sir George Radda) I hope not. If you like,
the code of conduct which we have for scientists pretty clearly
spells out where we have to have controls over that. What is important
is the scientists themselves have recognised they could help the
public by commercialising their activities. That is, I think,
again the priority that we try to put on to our scientists.
93. Can I pursue another point you made about
academics and the global market place, do you feel it is the case
when you look at the number of academics being attracted to British
universities there is a much higher propensity for those people
to come from abroad simply because home grown people do not feel
they are being paid enough? A lot of those people are not coming
from the United States at all, they are coming from Greece, or
wherever it is, or the developing world. What we are in the business
of doing now, inadvertently, of paying low wages, is asset stripping
the developing world of academics and not attracting United States
people. There is a big problem here.
(Professor Sir George Radda) I do not have the figures
of how many academics are taken from developing countries. There
is no doubt that in the United States a large number of the post-doctorate
fellows and students come from China and India, I do not think
that is the case in this country.
94. In terms of the balance of trade between
us and the United States on academics, would I be right to say
there is a massive imbalance and basically they are taking our
people and we can recover a few of them, but we really do not
have the financial punch to do that or is there a difference in
what you do, as it were, and the university sector generally?
I do not know whether Professor Goodfellow is in a position do
answer this, having just come out of the university sector.
(Professor Goodfellow) There is a range of salaries
people pay in the university sector. As we already said, Gareth
Roberts is doing a report which we are waiting for, a report for
Treasury, it is due out in April and we are all waiting to see
what he is suggesting about the salary, the career structure for
scientists and how many scientists and engineers we need in the
United Kingdom. We are all waiting for that.
95. Professor Radda, on the medical side, in
terms of the market needs, if the money is in cosmetic surgery
rather than a low income return in terms of vaccines that will
save lots of people's lives do you find there is this increasing
pressure from the private sector towards profitable areas rather
than public interest areas?
(Professor Sir George Radda) The market drives our
research very little. Our research very often drives the products
that are produced as a result from the research that we support.
Most of our commercialisation activities actually have been driven
by the science rather than the other way round.
Geraint Davies: It is push rather than pull!
96. On page 2 of the Report, paragraph 2 it
says that one of the core roles is to train the next generation
of research scientists. During this hearing you have heard phrases
like, non-United Kingdom scientists, foreign PhD students, in
many cases many of these people have been brought in from abroad,
we have a deficit of people. I just wonder, it is not often we
have three senior professors before us, starting with Professor
Radda, whether you have any views of the British state education
(Professor Sir George Radda) In postgraduate, and
we can talk about education afterwards, our own training budget
in the last 10 years has increased by more than a factor of two.
We now spend £40 million per annum on training and that is
a very important component of our activities. If you are asking
about the education system right down from schools up to there
I can only express my private viewthe MRC, as such, has
no view on thatwe do need to make sure that we can get
more people into the sciences at the primary level of education
and the secondary schools. Yes, that is a problem. We can advise
and we can try and work with other people whose responsibility
it is to see to that. It is, of course, not an MRC responsibility
as such, we start with graduate education or postgraduate education
(Professor Goodfellow) We put about £24 million
into training of Phd students in the United Kingdom. Our own studentships
go to United Kingdom nationals. It is very difficult to get people
from abroad on those studentships, so we are training United Kingdom
people on them, and that is just over 2,000, and at least 700
of them are joint with industry as well, so they get some time
in industry during that period as well. We are very keen to see
greater numbers of people coming through the university sector.
As my colleague has said, it is not part of our remit in BBSRC
to affect the university sector, obviously we go in and we encourage
both men and women to go into science.
97. I just wonder, Professor, whether coming
recently out of university whether you have any views about the
British education system at the secondary level?
(Professor Goodfellow) At the secondary level?
98. In helping you do your job, one of the core
tasks of which is to train and educate the next generation of
research scientists. Do you have any views, personal or otherwise
about the British education system over the last 20 years?
99. Not too long.
(Professor Goodfellow) I was going to say I have anecdotal
evidence as I have two children, one of which is just doing her
GCSEs but I do not think that is relevant to this Committee.