Bio Innovation

Bio InnovationTalk to a Technology Transfer Executive at any University and they will tell you the licensing money is in Biotechnology, more simply put, in medicine. Innovation in the Biotechnology marketplace is a very different proposition than it is for materials, devices, energy, software or any other area of invention and innovation. The sums of money spent on research are huge, in 2007 that figure for the US was estimated at $122 billion.

Not only are large sums invested in research, but the time to market is long, ten years to get a drug from the laboratory to market is consider an achievement. But the pay off for all this time and money can be enormous, Emory University and Northwestern received tens of millions of dollars from biotechnology patents in last few years. Healthcare is one industry where consumers do not have much of a choice when it comes to purchasing a product. Suffering, pain or death are not an option. A successful drug passed by the FDA and other overseas agencies is the closest thing to the right to print money.

At this moment, opportunities for innovation beckon, patents on successful drugs are expiring, and the pipeline is pretty empty. Companies like Pfizer are going back through their stocks of rejected compounds to find any that can be marketed. Drugs like the dreaded Thalidomide, that caused horrendous birth defects in the 1960s are being resurrected as possible treatments for cancer.

It is against this background that my company MMC Productions began a social media marketing campaign for a promising vaccine for Dengue Fever. If that seems like an esoteric illness suffered by people in countries far away you would be wrong. Dengue Fever affects 50-100 million people worldwide every year, it can be fatal to young children. In the 1980s the Tiger Mosquito that carries the virus entered the US and has been silently, and relentlessly spreading. There is no treatment just the hope for a vaccine. AMEDD, the US Army Medical Department considers it public enemy number two after Malaria.

Using social media for Bio innovation is a very different proposition from marketing any other promising technology. First there are only a handful of drug companies that manufacture vaccines, Merck, Sanofi, GSK, Novartis, Medimmune, Pfizer, a couple of others and that is about it. For that we can thank the scare mongers who spread rumors using pseudo science that vaccines caused autism. The legal costs of frivolous lawsuits puts scores of vaccines makers out of business.

So it wouldn’t appear on the surface that the social media open innovation model would have much place in such a tight and targeted market, not so. There are thousands of researchers working on possible vaccines for Dengue Fever, at NGOs like the World Health Organization, in Companies, Government Labs and Universities. What separates those that will succeed is not just great science, that is a given, but the perception that certain research has other benefits that make it attractive for further funding or licensing.

This is where social media marketing of innovation comes in, spreading the message and having it amplified through blogs, articles, seminars and other venues. The first step is making people aware there is a major concern and why. That requires explaining just how nasty this virus is. Its nickname is “Break Bone” fever, because suffers feel like every bone in their body is broken, the mosquito is very aggressive, its feeds 24/7 and there is no treatment.

Creating awareness and discussion in bio-based social media, such as Science Daily, Science Direct, New Scientist opens the conversation to what are the possible solutions. This is the point in the process when the business factors become relevant such as manufacturing costs, number of injections, length of protection, whether this technology can be used as a platform for other treatments as well as location. It is also the point where an emerging company needs to be visible and have media, print and video ready at hand. If a news item on CNN wants to discuss what to do about an outbreak of Dengue, there is not much in the way of ready to hand video out there.

A company having a well produced 4 minute ready to go video piece that a News Editor can watch on YouTube and then draw from puts that company in the spotlight. That is why we made a video for Arbovax, a company with a promising vaccine for Dengue Fever. In the months ahead, after some SEO work and well placed media, when the words “vaccine for Dengue fever” are put into Google their name will be prominent. In addition, the media created highlights many of the built in advantages that will appeal to a drug company or investor. They are located in one of Biotechnology “hot” spots, North Carolina, home to Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest, Merck has a vaccine plant in Durham, and GSK has its US headquarters in RTP. Also in North Carolina the most expensive and biggest Biotechnology Center in the world is being built at Kannapolis. These are important considerations as are the lower costs to manufacture, the inventors are close by in NC State and the technology has the potential to be a platform for other treatments.

Using social media marketing puts Arbovax on the radar of investors and corporations, as well as major grant agencies. The attention is not limited to the US and Europe, online media is global. I see that every day in the metrics, it is not just Sanofi in France, but medical companies in Indonesia, India and China that are visiting, watching the video and reading the materials. These are new companies with available funds, a market of millions of sufferers needing an affordable vaccine. The end goal is to create enough momentum to get a partnership, a license or the millions of dollars that will be necessary to make this vaccine into a blockbuster.

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Peter DoylePeter Doyle is an award winning media marketing, news and documentary producer using rich media to accelerate innovation and commercialization. Check me out at

Peter Doyle




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No Comments

  1. Joe on May 21, 2011 at 11:11 am

    The reason only a few companies sell vaccines is the same reason only a few companies sell oil. It’s called consolidation. Before we had GSK for example, we had Glaxo-Welcome amd Smith Kline Beekam. Before we had these two we had five different companies. They merged to increase profits.

    On another matter, my child was born in 1996. While in the hospital, six hours after being born, she was administered a vaccine to protect her from a sexually transmitted disease. We did not ask for this nor were told we were getting this shot. She swelled up like a balloon (inflamation) and now is labeled as autistic. The vaccine contained 25,000 parts per billion of organic mercury. Don’t tell me this is safe. A simple pubmed search provides 1400 published papers that says it’s not.

    We’re really sick of being blamed for the dilema you desrcibe above.

  2. scifin on May 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    The Center For Disease Control monitors vaccination very closely, according to reputable studies done by various groups there is no connection that can be found at this time.

    The Wakefield controversy in Britain was examined thoroughly and he ended up being shown to be a fraud and the Lancet fully retracted his paper

    This from recent
    On 5 January 2011, the BMJ published the first of a series of articles by Brian Deer, detailing how Wakefield and his colleagues had faked some of the data behind the 1998 Lancet article. By looking at the records and interviewing the parents, Deer found that for all 12 children in the Wakefield study, diagnoses had been tweaked or dates changed to fit the article’s conclusion.[90] Continuing the BMJ series on 11 January 2011,[91] Deer said that based upon documents he obtained under Freedom of information legislation,[92] Wakefield—in partnership with the father of one of the boys in the study—had planned to launch a venture on the back of an MMR vaccination scare that would profit from new medical tests and “litigation driven testing”.[93] The Washington Post reported that Deer said that Wakefield predicted he “could make more than $43 million a year from diagnostic kits” for the new condition, autistic enterocolitis.[92] WebMD reported on Deer’s BMJ report, saying that the $43 million predicted yearly profits would come from marketing kits for “diagnosing patients with autism” and that “the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation-driven testing of patients with AE [autistic enterocolitis, an unproven condition concocted by Wakefield] from both the UK and the USA”.[94] According to WebMD, the BMJ article also claimed that the venture would succeed in marketing products and developing a replacement vaccine if “public confidence in the MMR vaccine was damaged”.

  3. Joe on May 21, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    In this study Peter they say the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) caused, “mental regression and retardatio­n, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits, and movement disorders”. I don’t know about you, but this sure sounds like autism to me. Do you know any children with autism Peter? Has this study been retracted, debunked, villified, etc. yet?

    Pediatrics­. 1998 Mar;101(3 Pt 1):383-7.

    Acute encephalop­athy followed by permanent brain injury or death associated with further attenuated measles vaccines: a review of claims submitted to the National Vaccine Injury Compensati­on Program.

    Weibel RE, Caserta V, Benor DE, Evans G.

    Source Division of Vaccine Injury Compensati­on, National Vaccine Injury Compensati­on Program, Health Resources and Services Administra­tion, Public Health Service, Rockville, Maryland 20857, USA.

    RESULTS: A total of 48 children, ages 10 to 49 months, met the inclusion criteria after receiving measles vaccine, alone or in combinatio­n. Eight children died, and the remainder had mental regression and retardatio­n, chronic seizures, motor and sensory deficits, and movement disorders. The onset of neurologic signs or symptoms occurred with a nonrandom, statistica­lly significan­t distributi­on of cases on days 8 and 9. No cases were identified after the administra­tion of monovalent mumps or rubella vaccine.

    CONCLUSION­S: This clustering suggests that a causal relationsh­ip between measles vaccine and encephalop­athy may exist as a rare complicati­on of measles immunizati­on.

  4. scifin on May 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I have great sympathy for the situation with your child and autism, and yes I did a piece for a morning show on autism here it is

    That said to accept your premise, and I am not a doctor, it would require believing that ten of thousands of medical doctors sworn to help heal, government agencies in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia, along with tens of thousands of researchers are complicit in making children sick. That is not feasible.

    No-one wants to return to the pre-Salk polio days of children in leg braces, or dying of measles or any of the other scourges that once families had to face.

  5. lynn on May 23, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Same old DISINFORMATION.If you actually analyzed balance sheets as I do you would know that pill producers spend two-thirds of their budgets on markwting and under 20 percent on research. I am heartily sick of articles that pretend big bucks are spent on research. It goes on misinforming TV ads and junkets for doctors in return for prescribing off label. Write what you know about!

  6. scifin on May 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

    You have misread what I wrote, the 122 billion per year spent on research comes from agencies like the NIH, NSF, Foundations like Howard Hughes etc and if promising from investors.

    But for example Emory University in 2005 sold its HIV technologies (done with the grant monies from organizations like those listed above) for $540 million.

    That is what the pay off and the article is about.

  7. BetaPhi on May 23, 2011 at 10:53 am


    As the article itself states, “a causal relationsh­ip between measles vaccine and encephalop­athy may exist as a rare complicati­on of measles immunizati­on.” Far greater are the effects of the disease itself. So an incidence of autism-like effect in .00064/1000 is worse than the incidence of encephalopathy in 1/1000 in the unvaccinated who contract measles?

  8. BetaPhi on May 23, 2011 at 10:55 am


    Reading a balance sheet doesn’t tell you as much as you think it does. When a new drug becomes available, how do doctors and patients know that it is out there? How do they find out what it’s advantages are over existing treatment? What you dismissively refer to as marketing is the main method through which doctors and patients learn of new treatments. And drug marketing claims are not snake oil promises – drug marketing is the most regulated of any industry. An entire division of the FDA (DDMAC) does nothing but review and approve/reject every claim that a drug company can make, in the doctor’s office or on TV.

    And that is but a small part of the problem with your balance sheet review. How much money has been spent on cancer treatments and vaccines? Literally billions of dollars and millions of man-hours of research effort in both the public and private sector. Yet we still do not have a truly effective treatment. When that disease is defeated, it will almost certainly be done via a pharmaceutical regimen, and the bulk of the work will be done by a private firm (what’s the last treatment released by a public entity?) Without the research dollars you see on the balance sheet, how much longer will it take to find that cure – if ever?

    Easy to say that the treatment already found should be handed out at cost – the work is done, the answer discovered. Meantime, millions suffer morbidity and mortality from the countless untreated illnesses that have not yet been solved. You condemn them to further suffering and death with your cavalier balance sheet analysis.

  9. Karen on May 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I would hope that the choice of vaccines is based on sound science and business criteria and not who has the best or earliest 4 min You-tube video.

  10. scifin on May 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I would hope the best science wins, but history is littered with examples of the best science not being the one chosen, television is one well known example, Philo Farnsworth’s system was buried by an inferior system created by David Sarnoff and RCA, if better technology was the main concern our closets would be full of Betamax not VHS tapes…and so on. There are many factors that influence what science is chosen to be commercialized but first you have to get a place at the table…so to speak

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