On the Biotech Pharm, a Race to Harvest New Cancer Cures

Science  07 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5340, pp. 1039-1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5340.1039

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A cadre of scientist-entrepreneurs believe they can develop drugs that remedy the genetic and molecular defects behind most cases of cancer. The goal of this new effort in "molecular oncology" is to devise drugs that correct the specific defects that cause cancer in the first place--the abnormal activation of growth-promoting oncogenes, for example, or loss of tumor-suppressor genes. But companies face hurdles that have tripped up many biotechs before: They must have a scientific advance that promises a practical treatment; they must have sufficient capital; they must protect their intellectual property; and if they raise money by agreeing to share scientific advances with larger pharmaceuticals, they must actually deliver the goods. One way companies hope to buck this trend is by offering tools instead of targets. Others are forming partnerships, or even selling out to larger, more established firms.