Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

James Fullerton is an Associate Professor of Clinical Therapeutics at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS). In this story, James shares how collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies like GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, and AbbVie, as well as smaller biotech firms, have driven ground-breaking advancements in patient care. James also discusses the motivations behind choosing industry partnerships, the benefits these collaborations bring to scientific discovery and group development, and his view on working with the so-called "dark side".

James Fullerton alongside a quote "Working with industry offers different perspectives, provides access to alternate, complementary resources and ensures a strict focus on project deliverables, all of which can catalyse scientific discovery."

How have you found working with industry?  

Undeniably positive. My collaborations to date have been characterised by the development of meaningful relationships with a highlight being the motivated and skilled scientists who share a common desire to achieve positive real-world impact for patients. Working with industry offers different perspectives, provides access to alternate, complementary resources and ensures a strict focus on project deliverables, all of which can catalyse scientific discovery. 

How long have you been working with industry?  

My first experience of industry was facilitated by an MRC Proximity to Discovery award in 2018. I was approached by GSK whilst a Clinical Lecturer (Specialist Registrar in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and post-doc) at UCL as they sought to use an experimental medicine approach I had employed in my PhD. This led to a year-long secondment to their Clinical Unit Cambridge (Addenbrooke’s Hospital), unrivalled experience of early phase trials and even the funding of a GSK employee to undertake a PhD under my supervision.   

What has been your route to working in collaboration with industry?  

My speciality, clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, is inextricably linked to industry and many who graduate from this scheme work either part or full-time for pharmaceutical companies, or in other aspects of medicine development, policy or management (e.g., NICE or MHRA). My academic interests – inter and intra-individual variation in inflammation and immunity, and the use of experimental medicine techniques to both explore this and understand how to target it pharmacologically – is also closely aligned with the therapeutic focus of many companies. Collaboration has inevitably stemmed from there. 

Which industry partners have you worked with and what has the experience been like? 

I have been fortunate to work with large pharmaceutical companies including GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb and AbbVie, as well as smaller companies such as Gentian Diagnostics, Seroxo and MeMed based in both the UK and beyond. All these collaborations have been unique, but all driven by one aim – to identify novel diagnostics or treatments that will improve clinical care. 

What are your motivations for working with industry?  

I highly value the interactive, partnership approach to science that industry collaboration engenders. In the traditional grant funding model applications are long, reviews are protracted and outcomes can feel unpredictable. In contrast, with industry collaboration, there is scope to jointly and dynamically design projects such that mutually agreed scientific objectives are achieved, and resources tailored to need. Timelines are tighter, decision-making transparent, and support will not be limited to finance, but instead involve an ongoing relationship with regular meetings, feedback, targeted assistance (e.g. in analytical capacity and advanced data analysis) and scope for iteration in project design and focus as required 

How does working in collaboration with industry help you and your group?  

Industrial collaboration has been pivotal to my career, and to the development of my group. We often undertake method development or enabling work in the experimental medicine space such that key scientific questions can be addressed appropriately and robustly. This ‘unglamourous’ work would be unlikely to receive support from governmental or charity funders, however its importance is recognised by industry who value our focus on rigour and reproducibility. Through the vision of our industrial partners, we will now be able to generate the in vivo human experimental paradigms that unlock fundamental scientific discovery and novel pharmacological insight. 

What surprised you about working with your industry partner?  

As an NHS doctor, industry is often cast as the ‘dark side’. This could not be further from the truth. In my experience, the ambition of the companies I have interacted with, as well as their staff, is to undertake excellent science and develop products that will improve clinical care and outcomes. Whilst companies inevitably have to focus on profitability, we as clinicians and academics should not let this obscure the value they can add, nor the impact they can achieve. Instead, we need to recognise that they are an essential part of the biomedical ecosystem and seek to work with industry to shape their priorities, ensuring it aligns with clinical need, and to foster relationships that deliver impactful scientific progress.