The Economics of Running a Genomics Company

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Genset IPO Prof. Nahata FIN 9774

1. What are the economics of running a genomics company? What is the role of large pharmaceuticals in genomics? How competitive is the genomics industry? Running a genomics company is extremely capital intensive. Research and development, patenting, and developing marketable products cost a lot of money. The associated dangers of working with patents are also at issue here. Genset must be able to defend its patent in court against patent trolls, which can layer additional costs upon the capital intensive primary business activities of the firm. At this point in time, the patent situation surrounding mapped genes is also tentative. The US courts have yet to rule on the patent status of genes, making the market for patented genes suspect. The other difficulty of the genomics industry is turning research into revenue. It takes a very long time to turn a patented gene into a medical product, which has to pass through several rounds of scrutiny before entering the market. Even if Genset is able to find a major gene, they might not see returns for several years. Large pharmaceutical companies are integral to the genomics industry. Genset researches genes that are related to a wide variety of diseases. However, many mapped genes will not be linked to any underlying genetic disorder. The genes that are linked to treatable disorders must be researched to discover chemical compounds that interact with genes to treat the underlying disorder. While Genset has the intellectual capability to research the genes, they are not capable of developing drugs to interact with the genes they have mapped. Through licensing agreements, genomics companies could decrease the risk and amount of time before they could report positive earnings. The licensing agreements generated revenue immediately by selling some or all of the rights to future applications of specific genes. Thus the genomics companies did not have to wait for the future applications to mature before they could realize positive earnings. The industry is also extremely competitive. There are 114 biotechnology companies in France, with an additional 1,050 in the United States. Several genomic companies have already passed through their IPOs with mixed success. Competition is fierce to discover every human gene. It is a race to see who finds and catalogues all the human genes by the end of the millennium. By early 1996, there was an intense race to map all genes and genomics companies were getting closer to finishing the task every day. There is also heavy competition between the genomic companies and pharmaceutical companies. 2. What is happening at other genomics companies? What is Genset's competitive position in the genomics industry? Many genomics companies have passed through IPOs and private funding rounds. At 250 employees, Genset is larger than all the other comparable companies provided in the case. Many other companies are operating in the sequencing business, developing libraries of sequenced genes. Beyond private companies, many research universities, government-sponsored facilities, and research institutions are also sequencing genes. While progress has not been lightening fast, it is worth noting that there is a finite supply of genes in the human genome. The amount of genes that are functional from Genset’s perspective is unknown. While competition to discover every gene was fierce, Genset was engaged in the systematic and comprehensive analysis of the genetic map of the humans to identify and patent genes and regulatory regions related to selected common diseases. Genset was a unique firm because it was both creating a library of genes and researching the genetic causes of diseases. They intended to discover drugs to treat these diseases and enter into strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to develop and market these drugs. Genset not only researches genes, but it also is the world’s largest creator of

synthetic DNA....
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