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Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech [Hardcover]

by Gary P. Pisano
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 14, 2006 1591398401 978-1591398400 1
Why has the biotechnology industry failed to perform up to expectations—despite all its promise? In Science Business, Gary P. Pisano answers this question by providing an incisive critique of the industry. Pisano not only reveals the underlying causes of biotech's problems; he offers the most sophisticated analysis yet on how the industry works. And he provides clear prescriptions for companies, investors, and policy makers seeking ways to improve the industry's performance. According to Pisano, the biotech industry's problems stem from its special character as a science-based business. This character poses three unique business challenges: how to finance highly risky investments under profound uncertainty and long time horizons for R&D, how to learn rapidly enough to keep pace with advances in drug science knowledge, and how to integrate capabilities across a broad spectrum of scientific and technological knowledge bases.The key to fixing the industry? Business models, organisational structures, and financing arrangements that place greater emphasis on integration and long-term learning over shorter—term 'monetisation' of intellectual property. Pisano maintains that all industry players—biotech firms, investors, universities, pharmaceutical companies, government regulators—can play a role in righting the industry. The payoff? Valuable improvements in health care, and a shinier future for human well-being.

Frequently Bought Together

Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech + The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company's Quest for the Perfect Drug + From Alchemy To Ipo: The Business Of Biotechnology
Price for all three: $48.54

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Editorial Reviews


"Pisano argues that as a business, the biotech sector hasn't matched the innovations of its science." -- BusinessWeek Online, December 20, 2006

"Science Business" provides a fascinating history of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. -- The Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2007

From the Back Cover

"A very insightful analysis of the remarkable evolution of the biotech industry. This is required reading for all involved in this process, biotechnology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, academics, research centers, policy makers and investors.

- Henri Termeer, Chairman, President and CEO, Genzyme Corporation

“In this startling and cogent diagnosis of, and prognosis for, the biotechnology industry, Gary Pisano weaves a powerful economic argument that all is not well in biotechnology, an industry that should be the best hope for a better healthcare for us all. We in the industry need better to grapple with the challenges posed by this provocative book."

- Dr. Josh Boger, President and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals

“The industrial structure that has arisen in the United States to develop and exploit the potential of biotechnology is widely regarded as extremely effective. But is it? Few biotech firms have made a profit, and the rate of introduction of new effective pharmaceuticals is not impressive. Gary Pisano’s fine study is the first to bring these ideas into the open, analyze them, and reflect on what they might mean for the future of biotechnology.”

- Richard Nelson, George Blumenthal Professor of International and Public Affairs, Business and Law, Emeritus, Columbia University

“Gary Pisano's analysis uncovers surprising facts about the industry's innovation power and productivity, challenging conventional wisdom. Science Business is refreshing and inspiring for anyone who is interested in the future success of biotechnology, including life science executives, investors, policy-makers and, most importantly, the patients who it has the potential to help the most"

- Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman & CEO, Novartis AG

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1 edition (November 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591398401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591398400
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously just fun to read December 8, 2006
Really just a wonderful introspective into the realm of the biotechnology sector. The writing style is excellent, entertaining, and very analytical. He does a fantastic job of illustrating the scientific challenges that make biotech unique. My favorite chapter in the first section (Section I) entitled, "The Science of the Business" was chapter 4, "Drug R&D and the Organizational Challenges". Here, he explains quite remarkably the differences between Drug R&D and other high tech industries, which he breaks down into the terms of "modularity" and "integrality"; just fantastic!

The second section (Section II) discusses, "The Business of the Science" which is equally interesting. In this section my favorite chapter was chapter 6, "The Performance of the Biotech Industry: Promise Versus Reality". Here he explores the financial and operational issues pertaining to the sector. I think manager/mba-types will like this second section. What I can say is that I learned quite a bit from this second section including info on raising capital (e.g. IPO, Partnering, licensing, etc.), and much about "the monetization of Intellectual Property".

Overall, I must say this is - IMHO - an unbiased expose on the biotech sector. In order to truly understand its history, its unique challenges, one should strongly consider this book b/c it hinges upon a number of terrific concepts that need to be discussed and illustrated for the unaware. The author assumes the reader knows nothing, so pretty much anyone with a penchant for biotech will enjoy. I learned a lot from this book and it was fun too. Five star rating all the way!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extrememly lucid, well thought out analysis May 17, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For my money, most business school professors write with a detached, dry atmosphere about business topics.

Not Gary Pisano!

He has a strong point of view that the ecosystem for biotech is not working well. His observations about why are right to the point and convincing.

His prescriptions are well worth considering.

If you're new to biotech, this is a great book to start out with. I would then proceed to Building Biotechnology, which is also a fine book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overly Technical - June 10, 2010
Biotechnology has sometimes been suggested as a source of high-paying jobs to replace the millions of manufacturing jobs lost to globalization and automation. Gary Pisano's (Harvard Business School professor) "Science Business" explores the topic of biotech's failure to meet these expectations. His conclusions stress a need for organizational structures and financing that place greater emphasis on long-term learning. The industry, in aggregate, has lost money over its then thirty-year lifespan, and has not brought improvements in drug R&D productivity.

In 'normal' R&D (eg. aircraft-, computer-chip design), years of experience provide an envelope of feasible trajectories. Not so in biotechnology - R&D there confronts fundamental questions that are difficult to answer and efforts to do so are likely to lead to more questions and involve quite long time horizons. Further, it is not possible to patent basic biomedical knowledge, and many researchers are reticent to become involved in private research where findings are kept secret instead of being published. A related problem is that the growing range of disciplines involved in biotechnology mandates either greater vertical integration (fewer, larger firms), or greater sharing of information. The former is not likely to be efficient, and the latter looked down upon by investors.

"Science Business" was published in 2006, and was predominantly limited to 2004 and prior data. Fortunately, an industry source [...] offers more recent information. Per that document, 30% of January, 2009 biotech companies had less than 6 months' cash on hand, and only 10% of the 370 public biotech companies have a positive income.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I found this book to be well-researched, current, and insightful. If you're at all interested in the biotech business, especially in starting a company or investing, read this book first. Pisano's narrative really helps one understand the foundations of the biotech industry, and sheds some light on what does, and doesn't, work within that industry. The fact that it's off the Harvard Business School Press gives it additional credibility, which is well deserved. A wealth of references, as well as a listing of the companies listed in the study, give the reader both a sense of the research that went into the book and a start on the search for more resources on the subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
While many of us in the biotech industry are aware of products, companies and issues, this invaluable book is not only a great resource but an important guide and should be recommended reading for all biotech industry executives as well as investors.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars stale and insular January 24, 2009
By kerrjac
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book begins with the insight that good science is different from good business. Beyond this, I found the rest of the book kind of stale.

The author extensively discusses the idiosyncrasies of the biotech industry. He talks about the great amount of capital and trail-and-error required in drug development, supposedly with the intention of arguing that biotech is different from other sectors. However, I kept thinking, "But of course biotech is different from other sectors, it's a different sector." What this book lacked, I thought, were more comparisons and similarities between other areas of business. While biotech is the only industry that actively seeks drugs that hit molecular targets, it's not the only industry that heavily progresses through research and development. I was surprised that the author didn't tap the extensive history of R&D in other private sectors. After all, there's an array of specific examples to choose from, be it the microprocessor chip wars or the development of hybrid cars. Using lessons from those endeavors, and connecting them to biotech, I thought, could've been pretty novel.

Instead, the author rarely pulls insights from outside of the biotech industry, while maintaining that biotech is new, not fully developed, and can learn a lot from business. As such, the book has a very insular feel and seems very limited in scope.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
I am familar with the book/author and wanted to get copies for my staff. This was a good way to get books in very good condition at a very good price.
Published 10 months ago by Burt Adelman
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best
If you want to learn about biotechnology market and its business/economics dynamics, this is your book. Read more
Published 24 months ago by N. Asgari
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, concise introduction to the business of biotech
Those interested in learning more about the business of science (or biotechnology) should pick this book up as an introduction. Read more
Published on April 30, 2010 by Yuni
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
I don't know what I expected from this book, except for some new insights on how to invest in the biotech industry. Read more
Published on May 1, 2007 by Seth Maier
4.0 out of 5 stars Important background
This book is an excellent example of applied academic research. Pisano and his Harvard team have dug deep into the economics of biotech. Read more
Published on March 12, 2007 by P. Shanks
5.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Industry that is Still Promising
The biotech 'industry' came about when it began to appear that new techniques and new technologies had been developed that promised to revolutionize the development and... Read more
Published on February 11, 2007 by John Matlock
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have it.
SCIENCE BUSINESS: THE PROMISE, THE REALITY, AND THE FUTURE OF BIOTECH tells why the biotech industry is falling short of its bright promises; in the process analyzing how the... Read more
Published on February 5, 2007 by Midwest Book Review
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