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Genetic engineering is giving a new meaning to the term "manufacturing plant" as the biotechnology industry looks to potatoes, corn, tobacco, and other crops to provide cheap manufacturing sources for therapeutic The lack of capacity for the cost-effective manufacture of protein-based pharmaceuticals will soon cause a significant bottleneck at pharmaceutical companies, one that threatens to impede the progress of therapeutics at all stages of development, from the preclinical stage to commercialization. Today, companies are faced with the limited options of either queuing up for outsourced manufacturing, or investing hundreds of millions of dollars in their own production capacity well before they know that a product will succeed. A bumper crop of new companies is therefore poised to take advantage of the manufacturing capabilities of plants that have been genetically engineered to produce human proteins.
Myelos Corp. was applying its novel derivatives of neurotrophic factor prosaposin to the difficult problem of nerve damage caused by diabetes and other diseases, when it discovered, through serendipity, the pain-relieving potential of its compound.
At the January 1999 Hambrecht & Quist meeting, investors were hearing a new message from biotechs: the Millennium-ization of the industry. Platform companies are promising to leverage their technologies much more aggressively for many more customers. They'll identify their assets, sell them, and sell them again.
Agricultural biotechnology is experiencing a renaissance in start-up activity. But lacking successes to base strategies on, emerging companies have to create their business models, market by market.
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