There is a J Kenneth Galbraith quote, something along the lines of, ‘ the denigration of value judgment is one of the ways the scientific establishment maintains its irrelevance’. It is not the only way. I guess many natural scientists (at least me, anyway) tend to focus on the natural world and forget or neglect the role of institutions in human fate, except to wonder if only there was more money, my grant might have got funded. At a superficial level I sort of knew this, but like a lot of things, you only really get it, when you get it ‘again’. It was James Boyle‘s book (Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society) which opened by eyes up to the bizarreness and inconsistency of much copyright and IP law, alongside Larry Lessig’s work on cognate matters. So, institutions do matter. In dermatology, we have learned the hard way that many if not most companies, and major funders, are simply not interested in the fate of what happens to many of our patients. We think their suffering worthy of resource, but of course we are partisan. And of course, they don’t have Alzheimers, although, I am old enough to remember when nobody (well, almost nobody) wanted to study this disease, nor stroke (not a topic for anybody who wanted grant funding). Remember when neurologists didn’t consider patients with strokes worthy of their clinical skills? This is all by way of introduction to more work from Jack Scannell. Jack is the inventor of eroom’s law (Moore’s law backwards), which is a particularly unfavourable comparison between pharma and tech companies. I have just seen an article of his in Forbes, about drug costs, drug development and what, at one level, seems insanity. But it is not insanity, it is the play of the institutions we build. The thought experiment is simple: you burn the midnight oil in your lab, you find the cure, but nobody wants to buy your idea nor sell it as a product. Or worse: nobody can afford it.
[ I have just noticed my last two posts have the word ‘money’ in the title.]