| A curious thing happened on the way to the biotech revolution. While investment in biotech research and development has increased over the last three decades, new drugs that improve human health have not been forthcoming at the same rate.

What explains this drug discovery gap? Patent gridlock plays a large role. Since a 1980 Supreme Court decision allowing patents on living organisms, 40,000 dna-related patents have been granted. Now picture a drug developer walking into an auditorium filled with dozens of owners of the biotech patents needed to create a potential lifesaving cure. Unless the drugmaker can strike a deal with every person in the room, the new drug won’t be developed.

Peter Ringrose, former chief science officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb (nyse: BMY – news – people ), told the New York Times that the company would not investigate some 50 proteins that could be cancer-causing, because patent holders would either decline to cooperate or demand big royalties. Nicholas Naclerio, who used to head the BioChip Division at Motorola (nyse: MOT – news – people ), told Scientific American, “If we want to make a medical diagnostic with 40 genes on it, and 20 companies hold patents on those genes, we may have a big problem.” Read Entire Article

By Michael Heller