Ernst & Young 2008 Global biotechnology report highlights

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The Bio International Convention hosted a fantastic panel today on the 2008 Ernst & Young global biotechnology report. The industry is at “the start of a revolution” and aiming to reinvent itself because of three trends, shared moderator Glen Giovannetti of Ernst & Young, (1) R&D productivity, (2) personalized medicine, and (3) globalization. This post will briefly introduce the first two trends leaving the large topic of globalization for a subsequent standalone post.

The first motivator for industry innovation is R&D productivity. Due to patent expiration problems, Giovannetti outlined, pharma’s drug sales will be reduced by $67 billion between now and 2012 leaving pharma searching for ways to increase profits. Consequently, Pharma is buying promising revenue-generating assets from smaller biotech companies and cutting costs by laying off employees. Unsurprisingly, pharma wants and needs to reinvent itself and increase innovation.

The second trend driving industry reinvention and innovation, personalized medicine, is of particular interest as I am a supporter of person-centered bioethics.  Personalized medicine promises the potential for getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time using for example the patient's own molecular information. Additionally, it changes medicine’s focus “from efficacy to efficiency,” according to co-moderator Mara Aspinall, former president of Genzyme Genetics, potentially improves its safety and eases pricing pressures. As personalized medicine grows, the panelists predicted that consumers will focus less on a medicine’s catchy tagline and/or color and more on its results and cost, effectively widening the market’s playing field. Interestingly, it seems big pharma’s marketing and PR practices and competitive edge will be affected. Aspinall mentioned that currently only 50% of drugs are effective and that personalized medicine could potentially boost this number. Not only would marketing practices be affected, but the diagnostics and IT fields would be impacted as well. Personalized medicine needs diagnostic testing and IT infrastructure, and according to Aspinall it has not been decided who will pay for the needed growth in these areas. Personalized medicine is still in its infancy, but promises to bring innovative options to healthcare.

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