Assessing the history and value of Human Genome Sciences
Laura M. McNamee, Fred D Ledley
Human Genome Science (HGS) aspired to dominate the emergent field of genomics by discovering expressed gene sequences and developing therapeutic and diagnostic products based on proprietary genes. While HGS’ accomplishments fell short of their own lofty expectations, by the time HGS was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, the company had extensive intellectual property and had launched a product with >$1 billion market potential. Nevertheless, HGS’ acquisition price was less than the total capital investments in the company. This work examines HGS’ history and accomplishments in the context of the business plan described by the company at their IPO. We focus specifically on the company’s valuation over time, which was highly correlated with general market indices, but negatively correlated with metrics of technical or clinical progress. The history of HGS points to the challenge of accounting for the value created by a science-based business plan. Earnings-based metrics, present value calculations, and “fair value” assessments did not account for HGS’ progress in executing their stated business plan. This work highlights the critical need for accounting practices that credit value to the progress of translational science and enable investors to profit from such investments.