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Posted: 2019-01-11 15:08:06

January 7, 2019; New York Times with ProPublica

Observers have long noted the problem of the revolving door between federal agencies and the nation’s largest corporations. Consider former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, who now serves as the acting administrator of the EPA. Now we see the same dynamic recreate itself in the nonprofit sector, threatening our credibility and stewardship responsibilities.

Dr. José Baselga, the former medical director of the nonprofit Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), has become the leader of a newly created unit of AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish drugmaker, even as the nonprofit is being actively investigated by two large investigative news organizations. At stake is the ability of nonprofit organizations to protect their unique mission and role, one that should be very distinct from the aims of commercial businesses.

At MSKCC, Baselga had been responsible for overseeing the important work of one of the nation’s leading nonprofit research hospitals. In that role, he oversaw cutting-edge research that was supported by government and philanthropic funding. Like many innovative organizations, MSKCC saw the need to partner with for-profit drug companies, judging that this was necessary to effectively move the work out of the laboratory into worldwide delivery, sharing important treatments and the economic value of new medications.

Along the way, individual researchers saw no conflict in serving on the boards of their drug company partners and holding ownership stakes in organizations with which their nonprofit employer partnered. The relationships were not transparent, and important research findings were published without their authors clearly indicating their commercial ties. Baselga resigned when, according to the New York Times, it became known that “he had failed to accurately disclose his conflicts of interest in dozens of articles in medical journals. He later resigned from the boards of the drug maker Bristol-Myers

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