Bioscience competitors working together

MSNBC – TGen draws top bioscience collaborators to Phoenix. Two-year old TGen is a magnet for collaboration–even between competitors. TGen first attracted the International Genomics Consortium to Phoenix. Recently they’ve been working collaboratively with organizations like the Mayo Clinic, Agilent and Affymetrix (the last two of which are competitors).

A few things they’re working on together include identifying “regions of chromosomes that have been lost or multiplied in cancer cells, allowing tumors to escape normal growth controls.” The technology–comparative genomic hybridization (CGH)–lets them analyze and compare gene expression and high-resolution CGH data to gain new insights into various kinds of cancers. They hope the data will also help them develop diagnostic and prognostic tools and target the most promising drugs for development.

What brings competitors together like this? It seems that in bioscience everything is connected–it’s all about life, after all–and everyone’s goals are similar, though aimed in slightly different directions. Since no one company can afford to do all the necessary research on every possible facet of their piece, and everyone understands that knowledge in any one area will expand much faster when the big picture is clearer, it seems to make more sense for bioscience companies to collaborate. And of course there’s the scientific tradition of sharing (nice book chapter).

Although, it’s well understood that human beings don’t always do what makes sense… I just think that, unlike most business in general, there’s a unifying force among those who study life. Working together to find answers to the big questions–like genetics–can mean that everyone can go back to their own labs sooner and apply what they’ve learned to their own piece of the pie.