Making a difference for those in need

This month 4 major pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi-Aventis; all agreed to lower the cost of critical vaccines for developing countries. They have all done this as a part of the international vaccine alliance GAVI. The companies have severely slashed the prices of vaccines for diseases like rotavirus, a disease that isn’t prevalent in developed countries but causes more than half a million deaths per year. The model GAVI uses is one where vaccine costs are drastically lowered in developing countries, and this cost is offset by raised vaccine prices in developed countries.

GlaxoSmithKline has also reported that they are very close to developing an anti-malaria vaccine, which would be the first of its kind. This clearly shows a dissent from common pharmaceutical business practice, since Malaria is virtually wiped out in most developed countries. GSK has no hope of recouping costs for this vaccine by having patients in developed countries pay a premium for vaccination; but this has not deterred their efforts. Rather they have pledged to make on a 5% profit of the sale of the vaccine which will go toward future anti-malaria drug research.

Pharmaceutical companies are often viewed in a negative light for their practice of charging a premium for new drugs. However, the research, development, trials, and further clinical trials required to bring a drug or vaccine to market are all very costly, somewhat justifying a new drug’s high cost. Unfortunately this means there is no market for new drugs to combat diseases in developing countries as they cannot afford to compensate drug companies accordingly for their development costs. This is the key flaw in GAVI’s model, so it is great to see GSK is unhindered by this fact.

Everyday people who work in the biotech field strive to make a difference and help humanity through their research. Through the work of organizations like GAVI this research can ideally be utilized by all, and not just by those who can afford it.

New Product of the Week: High quality Anti-GST Tag (GST.B6 / G2R) Monoclonal Antibody for detection of GST-fusion proteins, ABP-MAB-GT003.

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Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 Open Forum No Comments

Introducing Product-on-Demand Biological Research Reagents

The general order of operations in the bioreagent industry begins with a developer observing or forecasting a need and developing a product. The supplier then supplies that product to customers by showing that the product will suit their existing needs. An alternative order in our industry is after a new discovery in the form an enzyme reaction mechanism, affinity binding, or biological system is made in lab, someone realizes that discovery could be made into a product. If the idea is picked up by a commercial R&D team, the underlining mechanisms of the discovery are then exploited for particular use and reagents or kits will be built around it. The new products are introduced to the market by convincing potential users that they will make their research better, cheaper, or faster.

From a supplier’s point of view, if the current processes for developing new products have been working, what’s the incentive to change? From a researcher’s point of view, well, do they have any other choices? If something is not commercially available, someone will just make it in the lab if they need it. Some of us still remember the days when a graduate student needed to make his own restriction enzyme because NEB didn’t sell it. However, there is a disconnect between how much new knowledge is being gained every single day in tens of thousands of labs and how small a portion of that knowledge pool is being turned into more powerful tools to make the next round of research easier and more cost-effective. For instance, when an important gene’s promoter is recently defined by a functional study in 293T cells, how soon do you expect to test the signals that influence transcription from that promoter in the primary cells you are working on? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply buy a vector that will express a promoter-driven reporter ready to be introduced into the primary cells in your lab instead of having a graduate student design, construct, learn and try to make a lentiviral vector in the next few months?

And yes, there is the route called custom projects provided by a few bioreagent companies. The prices are often inhibiting for the reasons that the price needs to cover for labor on industry pay scale, materials, indirect, and profit. Additionally, since the service provider does not take ownership of the product, the work of researching the relevant pathways and making construct designs is left to the user.

There is a better way. A company can plan product groups, lines, and packages based solely on the demonstrated importance of a system such as signal pathway or a family of molecules like miRNA. The plan can project to use the most advanced technologies, even accompanied with full product descriptions and vector maps. However, it would be a great waste of money and material if nobody would ever need it, right? One way of dealing with the initial cost is that we make the first kit upon the first order. The customer that places the first order of a new product will get a deep discount off the shelf-product price on what used to be a custom project. They might even have the opportunity to provide input on the product design prior to production. From a supplier side, we will benefit by having an opportunity to initiate a new product without major investment, which in turn would keep our overall prices low for such innovative and advanced products.

This model should help speed up the commercial application of any new biological findings, lower the cost and price of bioreagent products, and encourage interaction between researchers who normally do not work with each other to produce better products for increasing the efficiency of research.

Discount of the week 060110-060710: Any virus packaging project initiated this week gets additional 10% discount that can be used with first time discount and other pricing advantages.

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