Biotech research is not for the faint of heart. Each mad scramble for the next blockbuster drug requires hundreds of millions of dollars and years of painstaking effort — all in the face of overwhelming odds of failure.
Undaunted, these pioneers will spend nearly $1.5 billion researching, developing and bringing to market a typical biologic — a cutting-edge pharmaceutical drug created not from chemicals but from living organisms.
Yet nine out of ten biologics fail before reaching clinical trials. More than two-thirds of those that make it to clinical trials fail to win FDA approval. And two-thirds of FDA-approved biologics still won’t generate sufficient revenue to cover costs over the product’s lifecycle.
Despite such risk, 1.3 million people — including more than 180,000 here in Illinois — take up the challenge. And the angel investors, private equity firms and
venture capitalists who finance their work invest because they believe the
potential reward will be worth the risk. The opportunity to improve disease
treatment or even prevent certain diseases altogether also draws top talent to
Illinois’ leading medical research institutions for the chance to work on these potential
One of the reasons that biotech remains such a challenging business model is that it is also subject to the regulatory environment in Washington. In the coming months, as Washington advances with much-needed health care reform, I join my colleagues from throughout Illinois in encouraging our nation’s policymakers to ensure that intellectual property considerations and biotechnology development cycles are appropriately considered and addressed. It takes time for innovation to move from the lab, through the regulatory process and into the marketplace where consumers can benefit from the tremendous promise of biotechnology.
Nobody can say what miracles biotech firms in Illinois and nationwide may
produce for the patients of tomorrow. But to maximize their potential, we need
a health care system that doesn’t punish ingenuity, but rewards it.
Matthew Summy of Chicago is the
president and CEO of the Illinois
Science and Technology Coalition.