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FIGURE 11-5 Ownership of DNA patents, 1980-1999.
Act, which gets protected by intellectual property rights. Private firms draw on public science and also pursue private R&D, which produces more intellectual property owned by private firms.
A couple of generalizations do flow from that. One interpretation is that, the more money you make, the more you are going to plow into R&D. That is the argument that is made by the pharmaceutical and the biotech firms, and it is probably true. If firms make more money, they are going to spend more on R&D, particularly if R&D is the way they believe they made their initial profit. As a result, there will be more innovation, there will be more of the products and services that we like, and, of course, we are going to have to pay more for them. We have been doing that for two decades. One thing to consider is whether double-digit rates of growth are sustainable. We may be beginning to encounter resistance to growth in drug and device expenditures in the early part of the twenty-first century. It is very clear that at least for these genomic startups, private firms believed that their patent portfolio mattered. Their intellectual property mattered and that partially drove this high level of private investment in genomics and in biotechnology more generally.
One of the really interesting things about genomics as a case study is that, in fact, we have a scenario that feels like a race between the public sector and the private sector. I am not sure competition is the right word because you have one group of people that are dumping data into the public domain and another group that are developing data to make a profit. But they are doing the same things in their labs. In the private sector, they have done it in a very capital-intensive way that tends to be fairly centralized.
Public and private sectors are pursuing similar lines of research, and we have a natural experiment that has been going on now for almost a decade, the outcome of which we do not really know. We can say that the academic sector has been a more important part of this story than it has been in most other technologies, such as informatics and computing, although universities were important there too. But it is not possible to compare whether more public good will come from the HGS and Incyte's private sequencing, Celera's quasi-public sequencing, or the strong public-domain policies under the Human Genome Project and Mammalian Gene Collection. We may never know, as products, services, and discoveries are apt to draw from many streams.
The big fight over the publication in February of the 2001 sequence data is how much is going to be put into the public domain where everybody can use it without restriction, how much of it will be publicly accessible with some restrictions, and how much of it is kept behind closed doors. That is not a resolved debate, but it is very rich. In 15 years we may be able to make more educated guesses about what our policy should have been over the past four or five years.
We have races for money, but we also have races for credit, and they are inextricably intertwined. It is very clear that part of Celera's business strategy was to be well known and famous, as well as to sell database subscriptions. Therefore, is not just about money and it is not just about credit, it is about both. That is true on both sides of the academic and industrial divide.