Pow! Right on the Kisser! Myriad Genetics rocks the industry and threatens billions.

They deserved it – Pow! Right on the Kisser!  The Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry takes another blow.

As reported by The New York Times Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent the Judge struck down Myriad Genetics patents on two breast cancer genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2, threatening billions in industry revenues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Adam Smith, economic prosperity and profits. We’ve filed our own patent.  But I favor virtuous systems where balance and innovation can thrive.  Let me explain.

Social Network Analaysis for Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Invisible College for BRCA1 & BRCA2 Genes

After investigating the pipeline of pharma products, Lnx Pharma chose to study BRCA1 and BRCA2 prospectively.  We created a virtual facebook of scientists by taking each author on a peer review paper for BRCA1 or BRCA2 and filling their addresbook with their co-authors.  Some 2,400 articles later - across 5 years March 2004-March 2009 – we had a scientific network of 8,392 authors (larger image.)

Through proprietary techniques, Lnx Pharma can distill this complex network with over 87,000 individual links to find the key scientific opinion leaders which is called the invisible college — for more info see Caroline Wagners’ book  The New Invisible College: Science for Development.

Imagine our surprise when we drew this map – it doesn’t look like any other project we’ve done.  The community is core tightly is tightly connected.    Even now with over 20 projects including other cancers the density and centrality of this research community remains unique.

So why would a community be so dense? When we researched the community we discovered the patents. We discovered the controversy surrounding Myriad Genetics practices to protect its in patent monopoly.

We drilled into the details by segmenting the invisible college members into distinct groups based on their network profile.  This is like separating people with large facebook friends lists from those with small selective lists to company CEOs.  Although the process of segmenting is a bit more complex and rigorous it provides many insights.  In particular nodes are color coded to help in analysis and overcome errors in interpretation caused by projecting network relations in a 2 dimensional picture.

Closeup - Social Network Analysis for Breast Cancer

Close-up for the "Segmented" Invisible College - BRCA1 & BRCA2 Gene Researchers. Highlighted square nodes are the inventors on at least one BRCA1 or BRCA2 patent assigned to Myriad Genetics

As you can see there are many connections between researchers at the center, nearly obscuring the details.  On balance the peripheral researchers (green nodes) have few connections to the central researchers.  The ratio of peripheral to central researchers again indicates a tight community.  Four of the five inventors (B.Weber, F. Couch, D. Goldgar, & J. Simard)  are extremely well connected and central players. Even though the 2 dimensional layout tends to suggest they are slightly on the periphery their color (Red, Orange and Blue) indicates, they are in fact very central players.

To do research in a monopolistic environment means you must be part of the “club” to get access to use the intellectual property.  This community structure strongly suggests an exclusive research  “club” exists.  This means that innovation is restricted to the “club.”

With this patent ruling, if sustained, will we see a change in this community? Will it grow and flourish, spawning innovation and moving us closer to curing breast cancer?  Or will the habits of the “club” prevent new members? Time will tell.

But certainly Lnx Pharma expect a flood of new relationships as people and pharmaceutical companies try to join this club. Lnx Pharma looks forward to updating this community to see what changes this new ruling brings.

The complete invisible college for BRCA1 and BRCA2 is available for sale; just contact us.

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