by Jerry Blair
The growing crisis
in healthcare costs has its genesis in part in the research and development
of new and innovative medical technologies. Information technologies
and biological entities are converging to search out new discoveries
in genomics, therapeutic cloning and stem cell research; disciplines
plowing new ground in ways to combat disease.
According to the
California Healthcare Institute, Northern California has become "the
global leader in biomedical technology." Driving much of that success
is an apparent seamless cooperation between academic institutions, industry,
governments and sources of investment. The north state has more than
800-biomedical companies generating upwards of 4.1 billion dollars in
revenues, worldwide. More than 85,000 employees in the Bay Area, Sacramento
and Santa Rosa make up the workforce. Bringing just one pharmaceutical
to the public is an expensive and time-consuming proposition -- taking
up to 13 years...and upwards of $800 million.
Large Scale Biology
Corporation is a relatively small-scale company of 130 employees doing
plant research to develop pharmaceuticals. They just cleared their first
clinical trials on developing a drug to battle cancer. Ironically the
plant of choice was tobacco -- often called the "white mouse"
of plant research.
In the bioengineering
labs of UC Davis, Katherine Ferrara is working to expand a technology
that calls for the injection of bubbles smaller than a human hair into
tiny arteries and tracking them with ultrasound. Using a high speed
camera and a microscope they can actually document the reactions of
the small spheres to ultrasonic bursts.
According to the
University of California at Davis, there are upwards of 500 drug products
and vaccines currently in human clinical trials and hundreds more in
early development. They target scores of diseases ranging from cancer
to Alzheimer's to AIDS and technologies and research techniques are
developing at a rapid pace. Now that we have the tools that make the
medicines to fight diseases, the dilemma remains over how to pay for