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Once again, the Scientific American WorldView project continues to measure global biotechnology innovation.

I had the pleasure of serving as lead editorial consultant of this project, and my mission was to cut through the marketing messages and develop a coherent measure of biotechnology innovation on a country-by-country basis.

As promised, I have posted my observations from the 2009 Kyoto Prize. I had an opportunity to interact with each of the laureates, and focused on the question of how they were able to accomplish their exemplary achievements. It is not enough to simply be brilliant or hard-working — all their peers likely share these characteristics. What are the differentiating factors that enabled their unique achievements?

My observations appear in the latest issue of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, and are available for viewing without subscription.

At a recent event on the comparative advantages of small molecule vs. biologic drugs, several themes emerged which led me to re-examine the question of whether the practice of medicine is capable of keeping pace with medical innovation.

As mentioned in a previous post, the majority of patients receiving the personalized medicine drug Herceptin had not been previously administered Herceptin’s diagnostic test. This is extremely important, as the diagnostic test can identify those patients most likely to benefit from the drug and exclude those who are likely to see no benefits (and will likely only get sicker as they rotate through an ineffective drug). For all the talk of the promise of personalized medicine, it appears that the gatekeepers — physicians and payers — are unaware of how to effectively prescribe  personalized drugs.

This is not a new phenomenon. Antibiotic drugs have seen their effectiveness drop due to overprescription, which led to the emergence and rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

So, just as mis-prescription of antibiotics took the shine off many lucrative drugs, mis-prescription of personalized medicines stands to likewise diminish their value. What is particularly surprising is that this is not a new trend. For all the advances in drug development over the decades since over-prescription of antibiotics was recognized as a problem, physicians and payers are still hard pressed to prescribe drugs effectively.

When I asked the panel of potential solutions to the problem, I was given a list of emerging technologies such as bioinformatics, e-health, centralized databases, etc. that could solve the problem; adding technology to a problem isn’t necessarily going to solve it, it may just make it a more expensive problem! In reality the solution already exists. All healthcare payers need to do is require prior authorization before prescribing Herceptin, which would require physician consultation, and require a positive result in the diagnostic test prior to reimbursement for the drug.

As with most simple solutions, I’m sure that this one has already been conceived. So why is it not being used? Could it be that healthcare payers are afraid they might end up having to use a litany of diagnostic tests on all cancer patients, thereby offsetting any potential costs savings? I look forward to your thoughts in the comments section below.

Biotechnology Industry Organization CEO Jim Greenwood appeared on CNBC’s SquawkBox defending the case for data exclusivity protection for novel biologic drugs. The video appears below. Interestingly, he used the Aspirin vs. Epogen comparison from my book, Building Biotechnology, when he was explaining the difference between small molecule and biologic drugs to members of congress.

My most recent editorial in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, “The impact of the global financial crisis on biotechnology development,” examines the response of governments around the world to their investments in biotechnology and healthcare innovation. It is a theme that I also raised in the Scientific American WorldVIEW. The bottom line is: despite economic hardships, given the direct health and indirect economic benefits of biotechnology research, will governments sustain, increase, or decrease their R&D budgets?

The impact of the global financial crisis on biotechnology development

Here is a recent keynote I gave for the Delaware Valley Innovation Network. The group is working on coordinating the activities of community colleges — and other parties —  between the adjacent Delaware, Philadelphia, and New Jersey regions. My objective was to use case studies to show that drawing circles around regions to count combined assets (as is too frequently done) is not enough; it is also necessary to find ways to drive collaboration.

The slideshow is shown below:

After months of preparation, the Scientific American worldVIEW project has launched.

I had the pleasure of serving as lead editorial consultant of this project, and my mission was to cut through the marketing messages and develop a coherent measure of biotechnology innovation on a country-by-country basis. You can hear me talk about the project and some of the findings here, and you visit the worldVIEW site here, and you can see the innovation scorecard here. My perspective on why, and how, biotechnology blossomed in the United States is here.

Update: You can see Jeremy Abbate, director of global media at Scientific American, and I discussing the project here.

The Scientific American WorldView project, where I’ve been serving as lead editorial consultant, is ramping up for its May 20th launch at BIO 2009. One of the objectives for the project was to put marketing-speak aside and objectively measure biotechnology innovation progress around the world. Going beyond gross regional measures, we compare individual countries to distill best practices, opportunities for growth, and uncover hidden gems.

Intrigued? You can hear me talk more about it on BIO’s BIOtech Now blog, and the full publication will be available at BIO 2009 in Atlanta.