Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are Nanotechnology and Pharmaceutical R & D both about to jump into the pre-competitive pool?

In a thoughtful commentary in NATURE Joshua Pearce discusses how conventional intellectual property strategies (i.e. patent thickets) have hindered the development of commercial nanotechnology. He calls for an open source approach to basic nanotech development similar to the open source software movement. This is a very interesting analysis. It seems that there may a convergent evolution going on in the nanotech industry and the pharmaceutical industry. After decades of focusing almost entirely on internal R&D, big pharma is slowly learning the merits of 'pre-competitive collaboration'. As discussed in  previous posts on this blog, there have been several major thrusts in this direction both at level of preclinical research and more recently at the clinical trials level.

Obviously money still needs to be made both in pharma and in nanotechnology; thus allocation of rewards will be important even in more collaborative models of R&D. In an interesting opinion piece in SCIENCE, Garret FitzGerald argues that new intellectual property approaches are also needed in the drug development field. He goes on to describe some novel strategies for sharing rewards in proportion to the contribution to the final product (a marketed drug) rather than being based on the traditional initial composition of matter patent.

On a broader horizon it is interesting that two of the most technologically advanced segments of our economy may be moving toward models that deviate substantially from classic 'dog eat dog'  capitalism. Will the 'invisible hand' of the market be supplanted by collaborative helping hands that foster more innovation and broader benefits to society?



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