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Preview — BIO and Scientific American’s Regional Bio-Innovation Scorecard

The BIO 2011 conference is just around the corner, and Washington DC prepares for some 15,000 delegates from 65 different countries to descend upon its limits, which means it’s almost time for this year’s Worldview Regional Bio-Innovation Scorecard. This morning, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) hosted a press conference in DC to provide some highlights on the upcoming conference and to leak a few details of what this year’s scorecard would capture.

Over the last three years, Scientific American has partnered with BIO to produce a global ranking of countries in several areas related to innovation in the biotechnology sector (find a link to the 2009 results here). Jeremy Abbate, Director of Global Media Publishing at Scientific American, explained that as certain countries around the world are catching up to the US in terms of their production of innovative products, the biotechnology sector is becoming exceedingly global, and that a publication like Scientific American Worldview: A Global Perspective is needed to broadly document new trends and developments.

The essence of Worldview is to promote dialogue on what elements drive innovation, and to answer some pertinent questions: what characteristics or attributes make a country innovative? what makes a person innovative? Another goal is to identify individuals that are forces within the sector — those influential characters that are making the difference — the so called “heroes of science and finance”. Abbate iterated that although Worldview does not have all of the answers yet, it has collected massive quantities of data on the biotech sector in pursuit of them, and the scorecard is its “pièce de résistance”.

So what can you expect to see in 2011’s Worldview Regional Bio-Innovation Scorecard?

Emerging Markets

Last year’s separated the hype from the hope with a focus on China. This year China will be under the spotlight again, but this time along with the first three of the BRICs countries, including Brazil, Russia, and India. The scorecard will look closely at what these countries have to offer in terms of their capacity to innovate, their scientific output, and what capital they have available for investment. A special emphasis will be placed on the bio-innovation workforce they have to deploy across the biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries.

The 2011 scorecard will point to the world’s fastest growing drug markets, take a deep dive on Africa and Australia, and present some analysis on innovative products, what countries pay to produce them, and how price has been affecting output. Russia’s Pharma 2020 initiative also comes into play. Will Russia be the manufacturing powerhouse that some hope it will be? During the briefing, Nikolay Savchuck, passed industry representative to the Russian government’s Pharma 2020 initiative, joked with the press that, unlike China, Russia has been all hope and no hype; perhaps it is Russia’s turn to deliver.

Biotech Movers

Making its debut to the scorecard will be the “Worldview Biotech Movers”. This section will highlight three game changers in the biotech sector and what they are doing to lubricate the cogs of innovation. This year expect to become a little more familiar with India’s Kiran Shaw of Biocon, China’s Ge Li of WuXi AppTech, and one other influential individual from Brazil. Although not always “friendly” to innovation on a global scale, these people march to their own drum and thrive on a regional basis.

The movers section of the scorecard touches on Abbate’s question — what makes a person innovative? Unlike definable elements that contribute to a country’s capacity to innovate, like intellectual property, a sound regulatory environment, science-minded policy, R&D investment, and so forth, the qualities of a great human innovator are much more nebulous. Ultimately, a country’s capacity to innovate may rely to a large degree on people. The work behind Worldview may in time bring some tangibility to this subject.

Snapshot from Canada

Cate McCready, VP of External Relations at BIOTECanada, spoke to the press and provided a snapshot of the Canadian biotechnology sector. In 2008, the Canadian government began an industrial analysis of biotechnology in the country which indicates the sector is contributing in the realm of $86 billion annually to Canada’s GDP. Although this figure is primarily driven by healthcare, McCready notes that there has recently been a divergence to other biotechnology industries, namely agricultural biotechnology, which is growing rapidly. Canada currently has 600 biotechnology companies operating within its borders, from “coast-to-coast-to-coast”, as McCready puts it. Be sure to check out Canada Cafe at the conference later this month.

A Few Highlights

So which countries will win accolades? The scorecard preview didn’t give up many hard stats, and leaves much to the imagination, so you’ll have to wait until it’s unveiled at BIO on June 29th.

Officially in, however, Denmark will take no. 1 for biotech patenting, while New Zealand proves to have the greatest number of PhD candidates per capita.

Friday Science Review: January 8, 2010

I am starting the new year and decade by recognizing the accomplishments of two distinguished scientists…

Two outstanding Canadian scientists were recognized for their valuable contributions to the global research community.

Dr. Andras Nagy’s innovative technique to reprogram mature body cells into stem cells – called induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells – was named Method of the Year by the prestigious journal Nature Methods.  Earlier in the year, Dr. Nagy was selected as one of Scientific American magazine’s top 10 – Guiding Science for Humanity.

Dr. Tony Pawson was honoured as one of ten “Nation Builders of the Decade” by the Globe and Mail.  His breakthrough research over the past decade and beyond has propelled our understanding of the intricate communication that goes on within a cell and between cells.  Dr. Pawson was also awarded the Kyoto Prize this year.

Bypassing PTEN Mutants in Cancer Cells: The discovery of a novel link between the proteins PTEN and PKR may lead to new approaches forncer treatments.  Dr. Antonis Koromilas’ research at McGill University identified that the tumour suppressor function of PTEN requires it to activate the PKR-eIF2alpha pathway, which applies an inhibitory control on protein synthesis.  In a cancer cell where PTEN is mutated, PKR also loses its ability to control protein synthesis and the cell continues growing into a tumour.  The significance of this is that they can now try to bypass the PTEN mutation and find alternate ways to activate PKR and regain control of cell growth.  The research is reported in the journal Science Signaling.

Distinguishing Sister Chromatids: In studying cell division, scientists have long desired to follow the fate of sister chromatids – the identical chromosome copies that is distributed to each cell during the process of cell division.  Researchers used the CO-FISH (chromosome orientation fluorescence in situ hybridization) technique with unidirectional probes.  When they observed the process in different cell types, they found that the chromatids segregated randomly in some cell types but not in others.  The non-randomness may be a mechanism to direct cells to be slightly different from its sister cell and is one of many layers of complexity in developing higher organisms.  The solution to this biological phenomenon by Dr. Peter Lansdorp at the BC Cancer Agency deserves the recognition in the prestigious journal Nature.

Prognostic Marker for Bone Cancer Survival: Genetic deletion mutations in a specific chromosome region called osteo3q13.31 may be predictive of a poor prognosis for osteosarcoma patients.  The copy number alteration (CNA) marker was identified in subsets (80%) of osteosarcoma patients where their bone cancers appeared to be more difficult to treat.  With this genetic marker, patients may be screened to identify candidates who should be treated more aggressively from the onset of diagnosis.  Furthermore, the osteo3q13.31 region contains 3 genes that were not previously associated with the disease and requires further investigation that may lead to additional therapeutic options.  The study was conducted by Dr. David Malkin’s team at The Hospital for Sick Children and is published in Cancer Research.

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Scientific American and BIO worldVIEW Scorecard: A Global Biotechnology Ranking

world_map_2002Scientific American gathered and crunched a large amount of data to try to generate an objective, empirical ranking of 36 different countries’ biotechnology output and potential.

Here’s the special issue homepage, and here’s the scorecard page; but there are several interesting accompanying articles, particularly for those who have been following our Trends in 2009. See if either of these ring a bell:

I encourage you to check out the whole thing; but for all the Canadians out there who don’t want to read it for the articles, here’s the centerpiece:

Good news:

Canada ranks in the top 10 globally in IP Protection and ranks 5th globally in Intensity (a measure designed to give proper weight to “small countries with strong biotechnology activities”).

Bad news:

Canada misses the top 10 globally in Enterprise Support, Education/Workforce [really?], and Foundations.

Canada misses the overall top 10 by a hair as well, scoring an overall 2.9 versus a tie of 3.0 for Australia, Finland, New Zealand and Switzerland.

I am off to their presentation to “discuss” Canada’s failure to crack the top 10😉

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