After a $50 million operating loss last year, Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is looking to private drug companies for help with its financial turnaround.
The 589-bed facility, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, hopes to follow the lead of at least two other Harvard teaching hospitals by forging an alliance with a drug company for first rights to research discoveries.
Under the agreement, hospital and corporate scientists would collaborate at a new research facility at the medical center. Beth Israel Deaconess, in return for annual payments likely in the millions of dollars, would offer its new private partner access to discoveries in fields ranging from cancer to obesity.
The hospital lost millions last year despite receiving $109 million in federal research money--the third-highest research allocation among the nation's independent hospitals. In a recent report, Moody's Investors Service indicated that Beth Israel Deaconess is banking on private partnerships for about half of the capital it needs to turn a profit.
It would be in prestigious company. Massachusetts General Hospital has received $180 million during the past decade from skin-care firm Shiseido for first rights to discoveries by hospital dermatologists. Dana Farber Cancer Institute, meanwhile, has a deal with Novartis Pharmaceuticals for discoveries related to new cancer drugs.
Bill Schaller, a Beth Israel Deaconess spokesman, called reports about an alliance "premature," but he acknowledged the hospital is negotiating with potential partners. He said the federal government encourages institutions that receive public funds to "look for ways to bring that research to the market."
Beth Israel Deaconess President Michael Rosenblatt, M.D., told the Boston Globe that an agreement with a corporate partner would not close off research to other companies, because no single firm can market all the research done by hospital scientists. He also said that if Beth Israel Deaconess needs approval from the National Institutes of Health, it could come anywhere from two months to two years down the road.
Don Robuksy, a spokesman for the NIH, said it isn't likely that Beth Israel Deaconess would need approval from his agency. "It's a very complex issue, but it's not like we're a regulatory agency, like the (Securities and Exchange Commission) or the (Federal Communications Commission)."