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Who Gets to Pay?


In Spain, cancer researcher Mariano Barbacid is fighting the government for the right to use private funding to develop lung cancer drugs, reports ScienceInsider's Elisabeth Pain. Barbacid, director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, published a study in Cancer Cell on April 21 in which he showed that knocking out the cell-signaling protein c-RAF kinase blocks the development of certain types of lung cancers in mice, and with no apparent side effects, Pain says. Barbacid said the next step for his center would be to look for c-RAF kinase inhibitors as potential cancer drugs, but that he was blocked by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation from using public funds, and then blocked again from receiving €10 million per year for five years for the project from private investors. "At the heart of the battle is whether it's legal for a public foundation like CNIO to set up a type of partnership known as an economic interest grouping," Pain says. For its part, the ministry says Barbacid's plan to use private funds is not legal, and that his research has raised false expectations, as "promising findings in basic research or preliminary results in animal models [cannot] be conveyed to society as if they already were the prelude to the development of valid drugs." The battle has become major news in the country as both sides have taken to using the media to air their grievances, Pain says, and this is likely to continue. The conservative opposition in the lower house of the Spanish parliament has asked both Barbacid and the Minister of science and innovation, Cristina Garmendia, to appear at hearings to discuss the issue, she adds.

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