The rise of 'big biology' is bringing academic and industrial scientists together in large consortia to address translational challenges in the life sciences. In order to assess the impact of this change, this paper examines the existing norms and styles of collaboration in one high profile translational domain; stem cell research. Data is drawn from qualitative interviews with academic and industry scientists working in a large European stem cell research project. Respondents discussed what they perceived as the main benefits and risks of collaborative research, what styles of collaboration they were familiar with, and what collaborative work in stem cell science normally involves. A wide range of materials, data, and expertise can be exchanged during collaborative work. Informal collaborations are governed by an ethos of reciprocity and mediated by trust while formal project agreements can provide a safe space for sharing between unfamiliar partners. These characteristics make stem cell research well suited to pre-competitive public-private ventures but translation of new products to market may be more challenging.
Keywords: Collaboration; Moral economy; Public-private partnership; Stem cells.