New industry links profut researchers and their work, but critics fear ethics conflicts and damage to NIH's basic science mission.

WASHINGTON--In 1983, Ira Pastan was chief of the molecular biology lab within the division of cancer biology and diagnosis at the National Cancer Institute. Like most of NIH's 3,100 intramural scientists, he had spent his career conducting basic research - in his case, probing gene regulation and hormone activity - in the hope of understanding how organisms function on the molecular level. That same year, Margaret Heckler, then Secretary of Health and Human Services, visited the Bethesda campus that Pastan had called home for the past quarter-century and declared NIH to be "an island of objective and pristine scientific research, untainted by the influences of commercialization."

Today, a little more than five years later, Pastan, though still at NIH, is putting the finishing touches on an agreement with Merck Sharp...

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