Praise and Perils for Biotechnology Patent Policy

The Supreme Court decision blocking patents on naturally-occurring genes has generated predictions of doom for biotech innovation, along with expectations of more healthy competition in discovering new treatments and diagnostics. Although some commentators regarded the decision, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, as a “major reversal” in longstanding patent policy, many leaders of the biopharmaceutical research community described the ruling as likely to spur innovation and the development of therapies and companion diagnostics necessary for advances in personalized medicine.

All sides had legitimate reasons to claim victory:  patient and research groups anticipated easier access to more effective and efficient tests and therapies; biotech companies were relieved that the Justices did not invalidate ancillary patents surrounding genetic discoveries. A number of testing firms announced plans to develop newer, better, less costly tests using the BRCA genetic mutations. Myriad Genetics said its test for breast cancer would remain a leading option for patients and that it would continue its R&D program based on hundreds of other patents.

The ultimate outcome remains to be seen.  The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) is expected to revise practices for granting patents for isolated DNA, although the court specifically permits protection for companies that modify genetic material or create new products based on human genes. But in upholding patents on complementary, or cDNA, the Court left the door open to further debate and legal battles over just what genetic manipulations qualify for patent protection.

Yet, there is reason to hope that the unanimous, non-partisan Court ruling will help clarify patent policy related to biotechnology, a subject that remains tangled up in multiple legal cases and legislative proposals.  And the non-political nature of this fairly technical ruling should provide grounds for optimism that the system can address some issues on the legal merits of the case.

President Obama’s Plans for Healthcare Reform and Job Growth

President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, 2013 touched on some issues that may directly impact the pharmaceutical industry: healthcare reform, innovation, and job creation. So how has the pharmaceutical industry responded?

Read more »

Future Hub of Biotech: Boston or San Francisco?

San Francisco and Boston sit on opposite coasts and each has a rich history and character that make them distinct. However, they share some similarities: both cities are centers of top biotechnology hubs in the US. Read more »

Live at CPhI: And so it begins!

Rich WhitworthThe day started with a 5 o’clock alarm call and me feeling remarkably fresh to begin my journey to Frankfurt for this year’s CPhI Worldwide event. Unfortunately, the idea of a smooth journey was thwarted fairly quickly with the news at Crewe that the 06:33 train to Manchester airport was canceled. Bad start. Read more »

BIO’s Prescriptions for FDA

Erik Greb PharmTech editorIt’s not hard to find employees at large- or small-molecule drug companies who have gripes about FDA. On and off the record, people have complained that the agency’s review process is slow and that its decisions can be erratic. Perhaps hoping to make a positive contribution to this discussion, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) made several proposals last week for improving FDA’s operations. Read more »

Synthetic Biology Takes Another Step Forward

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor An alliance of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley earlier this month formed the UC Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI) to advance efforts to engineer cells and biological systems. Agilent Technologies is providing infrastructure, expertise, and funding for the new institute. The move signals growing research and commercial interest in the nascent field of synthetic biology. Read more »

Is Big Pharma Stifling Innovation?

Erik Greb PharmTech editorBig Pharma has offered many explanations for its anemic pipelines. All of the easy drugs have been discovered. Patent law (or another particular form of regulation) stifles innovation. The economy is forcing us to retrench. Although these explanations may be plausible, they all lay the blame elsewhere. Could Big Pharma’s own actions be discouraging research and development (R&D)? Read more »

Whose Gene Is it Anyway?

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor In a controversial ruling late last month, a federal judge ruled that several patents held by the molecular-diagnostics company Myriad Genetics in a genetic-testing product that covered two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers, were invalid. The decision raises the larger question of the patentability of genes, a significant issue in determining the rules of the game not only in molecular diagnostics but also in drug discovery and development. Read more »

Life After Big Pharma

It’s hard to get precise figures of how many people have been taken off the payroll at pharma and biotech companies recently. According to staffing firm, Challender, Gray and Christmas, the combined industries shed 58,969 jobs in the first nine months of 2009, 15,000 more than the whole of 2008. In total, that makes around 74,000 redundancies in just 21 months, many but not all of which came from sales forces. Figures from FiercePharma, meanwhile, show just ten companies saw 66,850 jobs go in 2009. And this doesn’t include layoffs from the merger of Roche and Genentech, nor the 860 jobs that were announced at Boehringer Ingelheim in August. Read more »

Industry should consider combination

Stephanie Sutton Pharm Tech EuropeThere has been a surge in the number of combination product (i.e. where a drug product is combined with a medical device) launches in recent years and this trend is set to continue as more companies seek to extend the life of existing branded medicines. According to analysts, the combination product market is currently worth 8 billion Euros and will grow by a staggering 40% during the next 3 years. Read more »

Next Page »