In 2008, the University of Cologne and Bayer Schering Pharma together decided to establish a "privileged
partnership" in order to foster interactions in the field of preclinical and clinical drug discovery and development. As one
of the activities of this partnership, we launched a graduate program run by the University and supported by Bayer funds.
Founded in 2009, the program now provides administrative and personal support as well as a scientific curriculum for 16
students. They carry out their doctoral thesis (PhD or MD) work either at a research lab at Bayer, or at the Medical or the
Natural Sciences Faculty of the University. Research topics span the field of shared scientific interests of the partners
(e.g., cardiovascular diseases, acute care, oncology). Project selection, student recruitment, and curriculum design are
carried out by a program committee, which equally represents Bayer and the two participating University Faculties.
Within a 2- or 3-year curriculum, students meet regularly for journal clubs, soft-skills workshops, and special courses.
They carry out a lab rotation over several weeks at the partner institution - students working at the university are then
hosted in a lab at Bayer and vice versa. Students receive scientific and personal support from their thesis committee
(supervisor plus two mentors, again representing both Faculties and Bayer).
Feedback from students, principal investigators and external reviewers indicates that an environment combining partners
from academia and industry is highly appreciated and carries the potential to attract particularly gifted students. Compared
with other, publicly funded graduate programs in Germany, the research topics within our program are rather diverse,
which require that a common thread of important aspects of pharmacology is implemented within the core curriculum.
Ultimately, our program will be evaluated with regard to academic output and career opportunities for its graduates.