Pharmaceutical Public-Private Partnerships: Moving from the Bench to the Bedside

30 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013 Last revised: 27 Feb 2015

See all articles by Constance E. Bagley

Constance E. Bagley

Yale University

Christina D. Tvarnoe

Copenhagen Business School - CBS Law

Date Written: August 4, 2013


Both to address unmet medical needs and to improve industry competitiveness, regulators in both the United States and the European Union have taken bold steps to translate academic research from the university lab to the patient. A pharmaceutical public-private partnership (PPPP), which is a legally binding contract between a private pharmaceutical enterprise and a public research university (or a private university doing research funded with public funds), can be a significant tool to ensure a more efficient payoff in the highly regulated world of pharmaceuticals. In particular, a properly framed binding contract, coupled with respect for positive social norms, can move the parties away from an inefficient prisoners’ dilemma Nash Equilibrium to the Pareto Optimal Frontier. When coupled with appropriate attention to the difficult task of coordinating the actions of interdependent actors, a PPPP arrangement can enhance the likelihood of successful commercialization by flipping the parties’ incentives as compared with more traditional contracts. Because PPPPs are less common in Europe than in the United States, a key purpose of this article is to provide an annotated roadmap that universities, private firms, and EU policy makers can use to create efficient PPPPs to enhance for-profit innovation in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe. A secondary purpose is to suggest amendments to the U.S. laws governing the patenting of government-funded technology to prevent undue burdens on the sharing of certain upstream medical discoveries and research tools. Our analysis is not only comparative; it also combines, we believe for the first time, a game theory and law and management approach to for-profit PPPPs.

Keywords: Public-Private Partnership, Pharmaceutical Industry, Intellectual Property, Game Theory, Contract Law, Relational Norms, Law and Management

JEL Classification: I1, I2, K2, L5

Suggested Citation

Bagley, Constance E. and Tvarnoe, Christina D., Pharmaceutical Public-Private Partnerships: Moving from the Bench to the Bedside (August 4, 2013). Harvard Business Law Review, Vol. 4, 2014. Available at SSRN: or

Constance E. Bagley (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

20 Fox Den Way
New Haven, CT 06525
United States
2038150078 (Phone)


Christina D. Tvarnoe

Copenhagen Business School - CBS Law ( email )

Porcelaenshave 18B, 1
Frederiksberg 2000

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