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One of the live oaks that bless my home

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Pharma Runs Out of Ideas?

Here is a nice followup to my January 6, 2011, post on patents as a measure of U.S. productivity and creativity.  Now Big Pharma is getting ready to throw their towel into the ring and call it quits of sorts.  It seems to me that they were pursuing a wrong paradigm in their research and their colossal blunder was called by the unforgiving Mother Nature.  The mistake they seem to have made is a simplistic belief that one or few unique genes are responsible for each major illness.  Identify the genes and, voila, appropriate therapy presents itself.  Well, hundreds of billions of dollars later, they seem to have discovered that gene expression is context-dependent, and the environmental influences (epigenetics) are stronger than genetics.  This may be the best example of a seriously misguided huge research effort that essentially broke a whole industry.  So now federal government is stepping in with another corporate bailout plan, this time an $1 billion/year government research lab.

 Is that it?  The Hubbert cycle fit of research spending by Big Pharma. The small peak also centered around 2007, seems to be even more good money thrown after the same bad old ideas.
If it continues, the cumulative spending from these two Hubbert cycles will be $900 billion by 2050.  Add to this 20-30 billion dollars per year of NIH research funding. One wonders what this astronomic amount of money might have done if it were spent on a different, humbler research program that includes the Earth environment instead of dismissing it in favor of design molecules.

Will we ever learn?  Now the so called "synthetic biology" is following a similar arrogant and false paradigm. Life is a bunch of building blocks and wires that can be put together like Lego blocks, according to one of the most prominent operators in this promising field.

P.S. On April 18, 2011, this article in the Guardian was brought to my attention.

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