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Genomics Essay, Research Paper

The Impact of Genomics on the World s Economy

Genomics, the science of manipulating, building, studying, and designing molecules, is going to change the face of the world s economy as we know it. Companies are rushing to adapt to the rapidly changing economic environment as new discoveries are being made in this field. Genomics has the potential to affect all aspects of every sort of industry. Since genomics deals with things on a molecular level, its technology can be applied to everything, most notably computers, energy, environmental, cosmetics, chemical, food, agricultural, biotech, and pharmaceuticals. The change genomics has made to the economy has already created a whole new economic sector, the life sciences.

Genomics technology is developing so rapidly that it appears to be on course to overwhelm current knowledge bases and research and development budgets. To compensate for this some of the world s largest companies are working out the details for gigantic megamergers. Some of the recent mergers are an example of the things to come. Two pharmaceutical companies, Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, merged to create a new company, Novartis. The largest pharmaceutical merger in history, this new company is valued at over $100 billion. A near merger between Glaxo and SmithKline would have created the world s third largest company, with a budget large enough to fund the estimated cost of sequencing the human genome. Its capitalization would have been larger than the annual gross national product of some 143 of the world s nations (Enriquez 925).

These mergers also allow the companies to combine their knowledge pools to gain an edge in the race to acquire licensing agreements and patents. In 1991 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office got 4000 requests for patents on gene sequences. In 1996 the requests for patents on gene sequences shot up to 500,000 (Enriquez 925).

It seems impossible not to go with life sciences. DuPont tried to remain primarily an energy and chemical company. However, DuPont later announced a restructuring, with life sciences at the head. The changes in companies go even deeper than that. Many companies are competing in several fields instead of just one. Agriculture and biotech are merging to create foods that prevent illness and fight aging, or animals that produce medicines. This alone has created a new economic sector, agriceuticals. Cosmetics and biotech could merge to create make-ups that fight the aging process.

This rapid growth is by no means all good, however. In Iceland, DeCode has a monopoly on the genetic data of the Icelandic population. Iceland, having the clearest blood lines, is the most logical choice for genetic research. It seems apparent that DeCode will soon get the support of Iceland s government. It already has the support of its people (Moukheiber 203). But is it ethical to have a monopoly on someone s genes? The explosive growth of genomics may also have other potentially dangerous side effects. The rush to release new foods and drugs may cause them to not be subjected to the same rigorous testing normally applied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There is also the problem of the huge expectations placed on the genomics industry. If the industry doesn t rapidly produce quick results and products it may lose funding. Conversely, if the industry rushes too much it may put out unready or dangerous products out on the market. This would cause a temporary boom in economy, but it would soon be followed by an economic crash as faulty products are recalled, lawsuits are made, and companies are shut down.

This controversial technology has the potential to be the greatest thing that has ever happened to mankind. Measures should be taken to be sure the public is well informed, the proper safety precautions are taken, the industry continues to gain support, and that clear lines of communication are maintained. A technology this important must be carefully protected by the government as well as individual corporations. The importance of federal backing became apparent when Canada pulled the plug on its genomics project. As a result, the country fell behind on genomics research and is now scrambling to catch up by creating the $175 million genomics initiative called Genome Canada (Kendro 20). Provided that the proper precautions are taken, genomics can greatly improve the standard of living worldwide. We may soon see cures to cancer, AIDS, and many other illnesses, and the world s economy could potentially flourish like never before.

Works Cited

Enriquez, Juan. “Genomics and the World’s Economy.” Science v281 n5379. August 14, 1998. 925-926.

Kendro, Wayne. “Canada Proposes $175 Million Effort.” Science v281 n5373. July 3, 1998. 20.

Marshall, Eliot. “Iceland s Blond Ambition.” Mother Jones v22 n3. May-June 1998. 53.

Moukheiber, Zina. “Genes for Sale.” Forbes v162 n2. July 27, 1998. 203-204.

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