The Petrie-Flom Center recently co-hosted a conference with the Safra Center on Institutional Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research Universities (fCOI), exploring situations where universities get cozy with industry. My friend, Jonathan Marks, is doing some really interesting work (see e.g., this) on conflicts of interest in the field of food-health research in particular. And, Michael Sandel also has a new book out called, What Money Can’t Buy, wherein he covers everything from organ sales to stadium naming rights, lamenting the commodification and loss of truly public spaces. (For example, a certain university near me has given their stadium name to Wells Fargo, along with dozens of other universities that have done likewise.)
In that light, this HuffPo story caught my eye: “Beer May Have Anti-Virus Properties, According To Study Funded By Sapporo Breweries.” Not only is the study on Sapporo beer funded by Sapporo Breweries, but it was conducted at “Sapporo Medical University.” That looks like extreme COI, almost as bad as this, one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, where the physician is actually wearing ads like a race-car driver.
Seriously, “Sapporo Medical University?” Is this an instance of a company department simply calling itself a university, like McDonald’s Hamburger U? Or, did the brewery actually buy the naming rights to the entire university? Alas, the answer is no: “Sapporo” is the name of a large city in Japan, where the public “Sapporo Medical University” is located.