Image: Erica P. Johnson

Pharmacogenomics holds the promise of delivering safer, better designer drugs--and profits--to pharmaceutical manufacturers. But the technology also poses a challenge to the industry's current, highly successful business model that relies on one-size-fits-all blockbuster drugs.

For small biotech companies and large drug manufacturers alike, pharmacogenomics remains only one component of genome-based research and consumes only a small part of the $30 billion (US) in annual pharmaceutical research and development funding, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). "It's an area where we are seeing movement, but it's not there yet," says Gillian Woollett, associate vice president for biologics and biotechnology at PhRMA.

Scott Rakestraw, executive director of Orchid GeneShield, a unit of Orchid BioSciences in Princeton, NJ, says, "The main issue with pharmacogenomics from a business perspective is there is not any large demand." He compares pharmacogenomics today to the personal computer...

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