There's been enormous progress in genomics; we're now on the threshold of truly understanding how little we understand. While the anticipated firehose of genome-based treatments hasn't materialized, we now know why it hasn't materialized, and it's possible to start filling in the gaps in the map. Turns out that sequencing the human genome was merely the start. (It's not a blueprint; it's not even an algorithm for generating a human being. Rather, it's like a snapshot of the static data structures embedded in an executing process. Debug that.) My bet is that we're going to have to wait another decade. Then things are going to start to get very strange in medicine.
...he and Friend tried to turn Merck into a New Biology company, by which they meant a company that would share its data with networks of outside scientists and that would develop drugs that targeted networks instead of single genes. The problem with that: Merck was still an old biology company. The drugs in its pipeline — including the drugs informed by Schadt's networks — targeted single genes. And so when Schadt and Friend made their presentation, this was Merck's response: "We're not an information company." And when, in 2009, Schadt published a paper in Nature entitled "A Network View of Disease and Compound Screening" — a paper that implied that drugs targeting single genes were doomed to failure — "well, that was the paper that got me kicked out of Merck."
Baker's alternative to all the distortions created by the patent system is simple direct public funding for medical R&D and education: the costs of such a scheme would be lower than the amount we're already paying on publicly-funded prescription drug benefits, so it would save money on a fiscal basis. All patents and research results would go into the public domain, which would generate huge global benefits.
I get the feeling that Erick Schadt is an amazing salesman, but what's he selling?
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