Global context

16.5 Biotechnology is one of the world’s fastest growing industrial sectors.[3] In mid-April 2003, the total value of publicly traded biotechnology companies at market prices was US$206 billion.[4] The United States Department of Commerce has described biotechnology as ‘the most research-intensive industry in civilian manufacturing’.[5] The United States dominates the biotechnology sector. In 2003, the Biotechnology Industry Organization reported that the United States biotechnology industry generated 72% of global revenue in biotechnology. In 2002, these revenues amounted to US$33.6 billion.[6]

16.6 Most companies in the global biotechnology sector are privately owned. According to Ernst & Young, from October 2000 to September 2001, there were 3,662 private companies, compared with only 622 public companies operating worldwide in the biotechnology sector.[7]

16.7 Globally, the sector has been characterised by a high attrition rate especially among the start up firms whose only significant assets may be patents or patent applications. Capital-raising and cash flow may also present problems and many companies have become insolvent after a few years or have been absorbed by larger companies.[8]

[3] Ernst & Young, Beyond Borders: The Global Biotechnology Report 2002 (2002), 1.

[4] Biotechnology Industry Organization, Editor’s and Reporter’s Guide 2003–2004: Biotechnology, A New Link to Hope (2003), 3.

[5] Office of Technology Policy, The US Biotechnology Industry (1997), 30.

[6] Ernst & Young, Resilience: Americas Biotechnology Report 2003 (2003), 3.

[7] Ernst & Young, Beyond Borders: The Global Biotechnology Report 2002 (2002), 10.

[8] B Williams-Jones, History of a Gene Patent: Tracing the Development and Application of Commercial BRCA Testing, <> at 16 June 2004, 6.