Fashionable Concepts in Biotech/Pharma

1. Personalised medicine (pharmacogenomics, companion diagnostics). A lot of resources are going into developing this, particularly in oncology. However suitable biomarkers are proving difficult to find.  In addition the US Supreme Court decision Mayo vs Prometheus has caused a lot of uncertainty about patent protection that will be available in this area.

2. Disruptive Innovation. This is an innovation which helps create a new market and value network, displacing an earlier technology.  In biotech genetically modified plants, stem cells and pharmacogenomics are seen as examples of disruptive innovation.

3. Crowdsourcing.  This is the outsourcing of a process to an undefined public, rather than using paid employees.  It allows amateurs/volunteers to contribute ideas, knowledge and to problem-solving. In the patent sector crowdsourcing has been used to locate prior art documents.  Transparency Life Sciences is a pharmaceutical company run on a crowdsourcing model.

4. Virtual Research/Contract Research Organisation (CRO).  Many biotech companies use a virtual research model where research is outsourced to a CRO. In particular CROs provide services at the clinical stages of development.  There are arguments against virtual biotechs, such as their ability to create useful medicines (see Xconomy). In addition we wonder whether contracting out research will reduce hypothesis generation at that stage.

5. Tropicalisation. This is the practice of backing start-ups that take an established business model and adapt it to an emerging market.

6. Orphan Drugs. An orphan drug is one which is specifically developed to treate a rare medical condition (an orphan disease).  Governments provide incentives for developing such drugs.  The EU and US make it easier to gain marketing approval for example.

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