Will U.S. Biotech Mutate Into Another Lost Market?

Amid the gloom over declining U.S. competitiveness in everything from autos to electronics, biotechnology stands out as a strength. But even this is fodder for Cassandras. "Unless concrete steps are taken by government, industry, and universities," warns a new report from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, the "U.S. biotechnology industry will lose its strong leadership position."

In particular, the authors are worried about an increasing one-way technology flow from the U.S. to Japan. In nearly 300 cases of links between companies of the two countries, for example, they found that more than 90% involve a transfer to Japan. In addition, Japanese companies are funding millions of dollars of research in academia. And thousands of Japanese scientists participate in cutting-edge research at U.S. universities, then take the knowledge home.

The report concludes that U.S. companies, universities, and the government must develop strategies "to increase inflows of technology from Japan and to expand marketing and sales in Japan." Examples include tapping Japan's strength in biotech manufacturing and better monitoring of advances there.

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