Creating Successful Biotechnology Clusters
Why have San Diego and San Francisco been more successful than Los Angeles in creating a cluster of new biotech companies and attracting large pharmaceutical firms? Dr. Casper is currently completing a book on the history of how bioscience clusters emerged and became sustainable across different regions within California. He is also conducting on-going cross-national research on whether public policy can be used to create biotechnology clusters. This project is designed to understand the many factors that may contribute to or impede the growth of clusters of biotech enterprises and to use that knowledge to design appropriate policies that may stimulate the development of new biotech firms. The project builds upon a large dataset of company information and career histories of several thousand managers and scientists employed over the history of the California biotechnology cluster. Dr. Casper’s current research in this area focuses on Canada, the United States, and Germany.
Cross-national Comparisons of Commercialization Processes
Universities vary tremendously in their ability to commercialize science and, through doing so, develop networks linking companies with university scientists. The project uses bibliometric and patent data to explore the development of inventor linkages between universities and companies across different regions. The project currently focuses on comparisons of the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.
When does it make sense for society to cure rare diseases?
Steve Casper, Ian Phillips
Within the United States there are over 7,000 “rare diseases,” categorized as an ailment affecting less than 200,000 people. Developing cures for these diseases is increasingly possible due to advances in biotechnology, but usually costs tens of millions of dollars. The US Orphan Drug Act grants special rights to companies researching new therapies for rare diseases. Companies receive market exclusivity for seven years and tax incentives designed to reduce the cost of clinical trials. Moreover, governments and insurance companies have agreed to pay extremely high prices for life-saving therapies: the biotechnology firm Genzyme markets a life saving cure for Gaucher’s disease at over $200,000 a year for life-long treatment. Spurred by these incentives, numerous biotechnology companies have in recent years launched drug development projects aimed at rare diseases. The US Orphan Drug Act is an example of “market making” or “pull” policies, attempting to create a market for neglected disease research that previously did not exist. Another approach to policy is to move research for neglected disease out of corporate labs and into public research universities and non-profit organizations. Through passing on successful pre-clinical projects to biotechnology companies, academic research reduces the failure risk facing companies, strengthening the incentive to start development projects aimed at rare disease. Through examining several rare disease drug candidates currently in development, this project will help carefully explore the economic and social incentive structures facing companies, universities, and advocacy groups within several rare disease fields. The research will help explore the extent to which society benefits from public policy towards rare disease and help policy-makers understand the extent to which success in rare disease fields is primarily the result of “market making” policies or also influenced in important ways by public-private partnerships.