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This is a guest post from Zhen-Xia Chen. Do you have a response to Zhen-Xia’s post? Respond in the comments section below.

zhen-xia-chen

The name of “genomics” originated with the birth of a new journal “Genomics” in 1987.   The journal adopted the term genomics for “the newly developing discipline of mapping/sequencing (including the analysis of the information)” [1].  The new discipline was born from “a marriage of molecular and cell biology with classical genetics and is fostered by computational science” [1].  Interestingly, Thomas H. Roderick, who dreamed up the word genomics, came up with the name in a bar when he attended an international meeting in Bethesda.  It seems genomics has some connections with National Institutes of Health, whose main campus located in Bethesda, from its beginning [2].

Until 2012, the U.S. government has invested 14.5 billion in genomics [3], and investment from venture capitals is increasing.  According to a survey on investment in 72 VC-funded genomics companies from 2006 to 2012, the total investment value increased year by year.  Although the number of genomics investments decreased from 22 in 2011 to 16 in 2012, the average genomic investment value increased from $15.1 million in 2011 to $24.5 million in 2012, suggesting that it may be harder for genomics startups to get investment, but the winners would get more investment [4]. In the 72 VC-funded genomics companies, most of them (38/72) have income mainly from research service and equipment [5].  Other companies have main income from health and agriculture applications, including diagnostics (14), drug discovery (7), microbial genomics (6), cancer genomics (5), and agrigenomics (2) [5].  In the period between 2005-2012, US attracted $1.7 billion in funding, while Europe only attracted $213 million.  Inside US, California is most attractive to VCs, and have got 1,090 million [6].  Most of top biotech VCs (12/16) have investment in at least one genomics companies, suggesting that genomics is part of a healthy VC investment portfolio [7].  Google ventures, for example, have invested in three genomics companies: DNAnexus, Foundation Medicine and 23andMe [8].

Why VCs are over genomics?  The reasons may include its wide applications, fast development and high revenue potentials.

Genomics may have wide applications in agriculture, livestock, ancestry, forensics, bioenergy, and medicine. For example, by identifying, validating and screening of marker genes that present in a plant variety or animal lineage which are associated with desirable traits in an industrial scale, genomics can be used to improve the crops and livestock quicker, better and more cost-effectively than any other technology.  In 2013, Monsanto, a leading technology-based agriculture company has partnered with Synthetic Genomics Inc., which was founded to commercialize genomic-driven technologies, to improve crop yields and prevent loss from disease.  Genomics can also be applied to discover ancestral origins of a person and trace the lineage with a personalized analysis of his or her DNA.  As of March 2014, 23andMe, a personal genomics biotech company that provides genetic testing and interpretation to individual consumers, has genotyped approximately 650,000 individuals.

The potential application of genomics in medicine is great. By identifying the genetic variants of patients, doctors may be able to determine whether a treatment harms or heals [9].  The process from genomic information to clinic includes five steps, including understanding the structure of genomes, understanding the biology of genomes, understanding the biology of disease, advancing the science of medicine and improving the effectiveness of healthcare [10].  Most accomplishments in the HGP period are in the first step.  So far, we have found about 60 genetic variants that are deemed worthy for use in clinical care [9].  For example, women with certain variants in the BRCA genes have 80% chance of developing breast cancer, and thus may have preventive mastectomies.

The second appealing feature of genomics for investment is fast development.  The development of genomics was greatly facilitated by the Human Genome Project (HGP).  HGP, initiated in 1990 and finished in 2003, is an international scientific research with the goal of determining all the sequence, including 3 billion base pairs, of the human genetic instruction set.  After HGP, more genomes from other complex organisms (e.g. chicken, mouse, rat, chimpanzee, dog, etc.) have been sequenced, and more projects on human genomics (e.g. ENCODE, which aims at finding out all the functional elements in the human genome; 1000 Genomes, which aims at finding out the variations among human genomes; The Cancer Genome Atlas, which aims at finding genetic mutations responsible for cancer; etc.) have been launched.

DNA sequencing technology, which is the fundamental to genomics, is developing fast.  The sequencing of a human genome costs 13 years and $3 billion in HGP, while only 1 day and less than $1000 now.  The cost decrease of DNA sequencing has profoundly outraced Moore’s Law (the doubling of “compute power” every two years), indicating exceedingly well improvement of sequencing technology (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Cost of DNA sequening (source: genome.gov)
Figure 1. Cost of DNA sequening (source: genome.gov

Our knowledge about diseases, including rare diseases caused by single genes, and complex diseases associated with multiple genes, is also developing fast with the development of genomics.  It’s estimated that there are ~8400 monogenic diseases, among which ~5100 have known genomic basis.  With genome-wide association study (GWAS), genes associated with many complex diseases, e.g. type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and breast cancer, have also been found (Figure 2), and genetics tests based on the knowledge can be applied to the diagnosis.

Genomics is also being applied to clinic fast.  On Nov. 19, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed marketing of Illumina MiSeqDX sequencer as diagnostic devices.  As stated in FDA’s own press release, next-generation sequencing technologies are “becoming more accessible for use by physicians”, and “The new technology also gives physicians the ability to take a broader look at their patients’ genetic makeup and can help in diagnosing disease or identifying the cause of symptoms.” [11]

Figure 2. Published Genome-Wide Associations (source: genome.gov)
Figure 2. Published Genome-Wide Associations (source: genome.gov)

The last, and maybe the most, appealing feature of genomics for investment is high revenue potential.  It’s reported that every $1 invested in HGP has triggered $178 in US economic activity.  The $14.5 billion the US government invested in the human genome effect since 1988 has helped drive $965 billion in economic impact, $293 billion in total personal income and $169 billion increase in economic output since 2010 [12]. In 2012 alone, genomic related research development and commercialization activities generated $65 billion in US economy, 152,314 supported jobs and $18 billion in personal income [12].

Some VC-funded genomics companies have already showed good performance.  For example, prenatal DNA sequencing, the noninvasive screening from a syringe of an expecting mother’s blood to discover whether an unborn child has a genetic disorder, was recognized as one of the “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013” by MIT Technology Review.  At least seven companies, including Ariosa, Beijing Berry Genomics, BGI, LifeCodexx/GATX, Natera, Sequenom and Verinata, have developed prenatal tests with the technology [13].  Take Ariosa for example, the price of its Harmony test is $795, and it has sold 150,000 tests from its market entry in May 2012 to September 2013.  In other words, Ariosa has got about $120 million by selling the test in 16 months.

In summary, genomics is a promising investment opportunity because of its wide application, fast development and high revenue potential.

 

References:

1. McKusick V, Ruddle F (1987) A new discipline, a new name, a new journal. Genomics 1: 1.

2. Kuska B (1998) Beer, Bethesda, and biology: how “genomics” came into being. J Natl Cancer Inst 90: 93.

3. Battelle (2013) The impact of genomics on the US economy.

4. Wuster A (2012) How bad a year has 2012 actually been for genomics investments? : Seqonomics.blogspot.com.

5. Wuster A (2012) How do genomics companies make money? : Seqonomics.blogspot.com.

6. Wuster A (2012) Who is the most attractive? : Seqonomics.blogspot.com.

7. Wuster A (2012) Which VCs are most active in genomics? : http://seqonomics.blogspot.com.

8. (2013) As Deal Growth Stagnates, Are Venture Capitalists Over Genomics? : http://www.cbinsights.com/.

9. Ginsburg G (2014) Medical genomics: Gather and use genetic data in health care. Nature 508: 451-453.

10. Green ED, Guyer MS (2011) Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside. Nature 470: 204-213.

11. Laine S (2013) FDA allows marketing of four “next generation” gene sequencing devices. http://www.fda.gov: FDA NEWS RELEASE.

12. Research UfM, Technology B (2013) The Impact of Genomics on the U.S. Economy.

13. Wuster A (2013) How is non-invasive prenatal testing getting on? : http://seqonomics.blogspot.com.

About the author

This article was written by Dr. Zhen-Xia Chen, a postdoctoral visiting fellow at the Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology (LCDB) at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)/National Institutes of Health (NIH).  She received her PhD from the Center for Bioinformatics in the College of Life Sciences of Peking University in China.  Besides a Bachelor of Science degree at biotechnology from the College of Life Science and Technology in Huazhong Agricultural University, she also received a Bachelor of Arts degree at Journalism from the School of Journalism and Communication in Wuhan University.  She can be reached at chenzhenxia119@gmail.com.

Susan Kling FinstonThis is a guest post from Susan K Finston, President of Finston Consulting. Do you have a response to Susan’s post? Respond in the comments section below.

India’s new Prime Minister  Narendra Modi has asked Ministers to set ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government,. While the BJP Party Manifesto calls for implementation of incentives for R&D Intensive Enterprises, BioPharma wallahs eagerly await clear signals on IP policy directions, where latest reports indicate that the Modi Government’s first act may be to expand pharma price controls by raising the number of drugs on the essential medicines list.

My earlier posting on the BJP victory addressed urgently needed regulatory reforms to restore luster to Indian drugs, devices and clinical research and ensure patient safety domestically and in highly regulated markets alike. For insights into potential patent law priorities – and leaving the important issues of data protection and patent linkage for another day –  let’s look back ten years, and revisit the policies of the prior BJP Government.

As full disclosure, I represented the international innovative pharmaceutical industry in a number of developing countries including India in the run-up to the WTO 2005 deadline for adoption of product patent protection. I remember vividly the excitement in the room at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in New Delhi on December 6, 2004 as we awaited remarks of then-Minister of Industry and Commerce Kamal Nath.  Speaking to the WEF plenary late in the afternoon, Nath electrified the crowd with his pronouncement that India would not be wishy-washy in meeting its WTO trade obligation to adopt product patents for pharmaceuticals, and that it would be good for India. Three weeks later, Nath ushered in the new era of product patent protection on December 27, 2004 with a detailed policy Statement outlining the rationale behind the BJP’s Ordinance relating to the Patents (Third) Amendment.

Let’s review the pharma / biotech highlights in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Statement–keeping in mind that the Ordinance was watered-down by leftist amendments before passage in March of 2005 (after the BJP Government was voted out of power).

  • The pharma and IT industry are described as sunrise sectors for India, increasingly following R&D-based strategies for innovative growth, and dependent on patent protection:

“Thus, while Indian companies spent not even a fraction of a percent on R & D ten years ago, today the larger Indian companies are spending in the region of 6 to 8 percent of their turnover on R & D. (The norm for major MNCs is 12%). The transformed Indian pharma industry is itself looking for patent protection – particularly the bio-tech sector, in which India has aggressive prospects.”

  •   Continued growth of Indian Indian pharma exports to the lucrative US market depended then, as now, on maintaining a patent system consistent with WTO norms:

“When we joined the WTO ten years ago Indian pharma exports were less than 4000 crore rupees. A decade later our pharma exports are 14,000 crore rupees, and account for more than a third of the industry’s turnover. This is the result of the confidence built up in our industry due to our progressive adherence to our IP commitments. Now we are poised to achieve an annual compounded growth rate of 30% in order to double our pharma exports in three years. Some 60 billion dollars worth of drugs are going off patent in the next few years. Indian industry can grab a lion’s share of this – provided we are a bona fide member of the international trading community[.]”

  • India also stood to gain from adoption of effective patent protection with growth in contract research organizations (CRO) services:

“Apart from manufacture of drugs, the pharma industry offers huge scope for outsourcing of clinical research. We have a vast pool of scientific and technical personnel, and recognized expertise in medical treatment and health care. India can take advantage of our strength in this provided we have the right legal framework in place, which provides IP protection to the results of that research.”

  • The vast majority of drugs would remain ‘off-patent,’ including essential medicines, preventing steep price rises:

“The fear that prices of medicines will spiral is unfounded. In the first place we must realize the fact that 97% of all drugs manufactured in India are off-patent, and so will remain unaffected. These cover all the life-saving drugs, as well as medicines of daily use for common aliments. In the patented drugs also, in most cases there are always alternatives available.”

  • The Act sought to balance access, affordability, and conformity with international IP protection norms:

“The Act ensures that the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to availability and affordability are taken care of. Public interest particularly public health and nutrition is protected. The law effectively balances and calibrates Intellectual Property protection with public health concerns and national security. By participating in the international system of intellectual property protection, India unlocks for herself vast opportunities in both exports as well as her potential to become a global hub in the area of R&D based clinical research outsourcing, particularly in the area of bio-technology.”

While hindsight is 20/20, in retrospect the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Statement appears prescient in identifying key stakeholders and the broader social and economic benefits of a product patent protection. Undoubtedly, the BJP Ordinance itself suffered from lacunae – and received significant criticism from the international innovative BioPharma industry.  At the same time, the Ordinance was recognized as a critical watershed and a substantial, positive step to move India closer to the patent mainstream.  The identified deficits in the BJP Ordinance subsequently were compounded and multiplied by subsequent Leftist amendments, effectively undermining patent protection needed by India’s innovative BioPharma companies and MNCs alike.

Let’s hope that ten years on the Modi Government may see the broader picture beyond price controls for essential medicines and may introduce patent reforms needed to reset the balance between access, affordability and effective patent protection.  This would go a long way to meet the BJP Manifesto to support R&D Intensive Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) needed for creation and assimilation of new technologies, e.g., novel diagnostics, devices, therapies and cures for patients in India and globally.

About the author:
President of Finston Consulting LLC since 2005, Susan works with innovative biotechnology and other clients ranging from start-up to Fortune-100, providing support for legal, transactional, policy and “doing business” issues. Susan has extensive background and special expertise relating to intellectual property and knowledge-economy issues in advanced developing countries including India and South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. She also works with governments, and NGOs on capacity building and related educational programs through BayhDole25. Together with biotechnology pioneer Ananda Chakrabarty, she also is co-founder of Amrita Therapeutics Ltd., an emerging biopharmaceutical company based in India with cancer peptide drugs entering in vivo research. Previous experience includes 11 years in the U.S Foreign Service with overseas tours in London, Tel Aviv, and Manila and at the Department of State in Washington DC. For more information on latest presentations and publications please visit finstonconsulting.com.

Global BiotechnologyI will be discussing the 2014 issue of Scientific American Worldview at 12:45 in Room 3 at BIO2014 along with Mike May, the project editor.

I continue to measure global biotechnology innovation in this sixth edition, which is also the foundation I use for my talks on global biotechnology (see my recent talk on Building Biotechnology in India).

In addition to the comparative global biotechnology innovation scorecard which I edit, Worldview also includes subjective stories of global innovation, highlights of selected countries, and profiles of industry leaders.

I look forward to your comments and critiques — check out Scientific American Worldview at http://www.saworldview.com

Find top-performing patent attorneysI am seeking input on a new project which helps you identify top-performing patent attorneys.

PatentStat.com uses cutting-edge research on patent strength to identify top-performing patent attorneys and patent firms in 35 technology areas. Attorneys are scored by their average grant time, the number of claims allowed, citations, and other factors.

As an added bonus, PatentStat also profiles patent examiners, creating a tool for patent counsel to better understand their examiner. Average grant times and other metrics for each examiner are posted, helping inform time and financial budgeting decisions.

I invite you to check out the site in development at http://www.PatentStat.com and I look forward to your comments.

 

I continue to measure global biotechnology innovation in the sixth edition of Scientific American Worldview. This special publication is the foundation I use for my talks on global biotechnology (see my recent talk on Building Biotechnology in India).

I will be serving on a panel on June 26th at 12:45-1:45 in Room 3, and David Brancaccio, host of Marketplace Morning Report will be moderating a discussion with industry leaders at 2pm.

In addition to the comparative global biotechnology innovation scorecard which I edit, Worldview also includes subjective stories of global innovation, highlights of selected countries, and profiles of industry leaders.

I look forward to your comments and critiques — check out Scientific American Worldview at http://www.saworldview.com

Asian biotechnology innovation
Asian biotechnology innovation

My paper on global biopharmaceutical productivity has been published in the latest issue of Nature Biotechnology.

This paper is a refinement of my work ranking international biotechnology for Scientific American Worldview, and draws on the DrugPatentWatch database.

In this paper I investigate the locations of drug inventors, as measured by patents covering marketed drugs. The result, which may surprise many readers, is that the bulk of the innovation still occurs in the legacy pharma regions — Western Europe, the United States, and Japan.

I have many thoughts on why larger Asian countries like India, South Korea, and China demonstrate little innovation in biopharmaceuticals (and I’ve expressed these views at length in my talks, and here and here), and I have also published prescriptions for smaller nations.

Given the poor output of patents covering marketed drugs from countries such as China, one must ask whether vigorous pro-patenting policies (China leads the world in patent applications — but not in grants) are appropriate. Additionally, one must ask if Western metrics for innovation should be applied to other contexts.

To access the full paper (paywall), see http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v32/n6/full/nbt.2933.html

For more information on the DrugPatentWatch database, see http://www.DrugPatentWatch.com

Journal of Commercial BiotechnologyMassBio and the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology have partnered to provide MassBio members with free and discounted subscriptions.

  • New MassBio members can get a free 1 year digital subscription to the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology
  • Existing MassBio members can get a 20% discount on Journal of Commercial Biotechnology subscriptions

Members should contact editor@CommercialBiotechnology.com to activate their free subscription or to purchase a discounted subscription.

The Journal of Commercial Biotechnology is a unique forum for all those involved in biotechnology commercialization to present, share, and explore new ideas, latest thinking and best practices, making it an indispensable guide for those developing projects and careers within this fast moving field.

Each issue publishes peer-reviewed, authoritative, cutting-edge articles written by the leading practitioners and researchers in the field, addressing topics such as:

  • Management
  • Policy
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Regulation
  • Bioethics

For more information, see the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology website

To discuss a partnership with your organization, contact editor@CommercialBiotechnology.com .

Susan Kling FinstonThis is a guest post from Susan K Finston, President of Finston Consulting. Do you have a response to Susan’s post? Respond in the comments section below.

India’s recent election has brought a decisive majority to the right-of-center BJP Party, carrying BJP leader Narendra Modi to the Prime Minister’s office. What will the decisive BJP Victory mean for the future of innovative life sciences in India? Will Prime Minister Modi re-invigorate commercial biotechnology in Delhi?

The State of Gujarat has long been a been a manufacturing and export powerhouse for generic pharmaceuticals, where “Gujarat contributes nearly 28 per cent to national pharmaceutical exports.” In contrast to the broader challenges facing bio-pharma growth in India, Gujarat has continued as a bright spot for pharmaceutical exports, enjoying double-digit growth over the last fiscal year. Long recognized as a manufacturing powerhouse, Gujarat has captured an outsize share – now exceeding 40% of India’s total generics turnover. 

During his 12-year tenure as Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, Minister Modi identified the innovative life sciences as having great development potential, having seen the benefits to India’s southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh from the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution. Then-Chief Minister Modi set out to to attract highly innovative life sciences companies to the State through seed funding programs as well as promotion of the sector at Vibrant Gujarat – a bi-annual pan-industrial congress attracting industry leaders from across India and abroad.

Established under the jurisdiction of the Gujarat State Biotechnology Mission (GSBTM) and administered by the Gujarat Venture Fund Limited (GVFL), the Gujarat Biotech Venture Fund (GBVF) provides seed funding to innovative companies registered in Gujarat. (Full disclosure: my biotech start-up, Amrita Therapeutics Public Limited, received initial seed funding under the GBVF that enabled the company to initiate R&D at the depths of the global economic crisis in early 2009.) I met Minister Modi at the 2009 Vibrant Gujarat  in Gandhinagar, and witnessed first hand the intensive efforts underway to support growth of Gujarat’s innovative biotech sector.

Now Prime Minister-elect Modi has the opportunity to ‘green light’ incentives to encourage home-grown biotech start-ups across the country, including:

  • Investment Tax Credits to encourage investment by VCs and Angel Investors in ‘high risk, high reward’ biotech discovery companies that require a substantial commitment of funds for a decade or more before commercial launch
  • Expansion of current Department of Biotechnology (DBT) industry partnership programs, with an orientation to support for cutting-edge, biotech ventures vs. established pharma manufacturers
  • Focus on regulatory excellence: Indian industry – and Indian’s own citizens – can only thrive in an environment with unquestionable Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Clinical Practices (GCP)
  • Collaborate closely with the International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) to ensure that Indian clinical trials fully meet international standards and that Indian patients gain access to clinical research for indigenous innovative therapies and cures for cancer and other high priority public health threats

Beyond increasing access to early capital, the Indian Government also could do more specifically to promote innovative oncology research to address the growing public health threat of colorectal and other cancers for Indian nationals. In the U.S. and in India alike, biotechnology companies historically take root and multiply in clusters in close proximity with other biotech companies, research institutes, and incubation facilities that provide access to wet-labs and high-cost, sensitive equipment and other supplies — Establishment of focused research clusters for oncology R&D would bring long-term benefits.

The Indian electorate voted decisively for change and economic reforms to encourage the assimilation of new technologies for broader social and economic benefits. Time will tell whether Prime Minister-elect Modi will again focus efforts on biotechnology – beyond Gujarat’s borders – for the benefit of India and the world.

About the author:
President of Finston Consulting LLC since 2005, Susan works with innovative biotechnology and other clients ranging from start-up to Fortune-100, providing support for legal, transactional, policy and “doing business” issues. Susan has extensive background and special expertise relating to intellectual property and knowledge-economy issues in advanced developing countries including India and South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. She also works with governments, and NGOs on capacity building and related educational programs through BayhDole25. Together with biotechnology pioneer Ananda Chakrabarty, she also is co-founder of Amrita Therapeutics Ltd., an emerging biopharmaceutical company based in India with cancer peptide drugs entering in vivo research. Previous experience includes 11 years in the U.S Foreign Service with overseas tours in London, Tel Aviv, and Manila and at the Department of State in Washington DC. For more information on latest presentations and publications please visit finstonconsulting.com.

Journal of Commercial BiotechnologyBIOTECanada and the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology have partnered to provide BIOTECanada members with free and discounted subscriptions.

    • New BIOTECanada members can get a free 1 year digital subscription to the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology
    • Existing BIOTECanada members can get a 20% discount on Journal of Commercial Biotechnology subscriptions

Members should contact editor@CommercialBiotechnology.com to activate their free subscription or to purchase a discounted subscription.

The Journal of Commercial Biotechnology is a unique forum for all those involved in biotechnology commercialization to present, share, and explore new ideas, latest thinking and best practices, making it an indispensable guide for those developing projects and careers within this fast moving field.

Each issue publishes peer-reviewed, authoritative, cutting-edge articles written by the leading practitioners and researchers in the field, addressing topics such as:

  • Management
  • Policy
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Regulation
  • Bioethics

For more information, see the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology website

To discuss a partnership with your organization, contact editor@CommercialBiotechnology.com .