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Comment: Re:Simple Solution: Use the patent system (Score 1) 243

by pipedwho (#49134497) Attached to: The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics

Yes, the basic discovery was serendipitous. But, his research was university related, and the concept was based on a paper written 30 years earlier by another researcher. So it's not like he fell over and discovered something completely unrelated to what he was working on. This kind of thing happens all the time in academic research.

If it was discovered 'accidentally' today, it would take enormous funds and time to work out how to mass produce it, trial it and have it approved. The risk to commercialise it may turn out to be unfruitful if it was found to have some serious side effects or not be as effective as other drugs already on the market. Someone with big money would have to be convinced that it was revolutionary and that it would return huge investments.

Luckily, it emerged at a time where there was no other competing drugs in that sector. It took another 15 years before a company made the effort to attempt to commercialise it for mass production (and the catalyst for that was probably WWII). Imagine they had to go through the same approvals process and costs that exist today. The barrier to entry is too high for the little guy to enter the field, so its left up to big pharma who seem to be more interested in ineffective drugs that people take forever. Not so much one off cures.

This is obviously just my opinion, but something really needs to be done if we want to encourage difficult R&D for medicines that may not be huge immediate cash cows.

Comment: Re:Snowden (Score 1) 268

by pipedwho (#49132957) Attached to: It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy

Your first sentence makes sense.

But this isn't just about Chinese firms ditching US products because of something they read in the Snowden gazette. The Chinese government has altered the allowed purchasing list for government related purchases. (Pray they don't alter it any further.)

Snowden only provided evidence of what pretty much anyone with half a brain already suspected was happening. Do you somehow think that someone in the Chinese intelligence community didn't already know about this and that without Snowden they'd still be obliviously buying backdoor ridden US products?

No, Snowden provided a public service by making people aware that the NSA was not operating within the bounds provided by the US Constitution. That's not to say the NSA can't also do good and gather intelligence in less invasive ways, but it highlights a rot that needs to be curtailed (and as you point out, on both sides of the fence).

Comment: Re:Simple Solution: Use the patent system (Score 1) 243

by pipedwho (#49132561) Attached to: The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics

Only if the approval/development process from patent to market is already eating up 90% of the 20 year patent protection. Companies don't look that far into the future. A 30 year patent creates a profit incentive that will only benefit the company two CEOs and three changes of management in the future.

For a profitable cash flow, the return needs to be huge and far more immediate. Not trickled in over 30 years. It needs to pour in over 5 years or 10 years at most. This gives sufficient capital return and cash flow to fund the next development. If you make the patent last 30 years of even 100 years, then the company might make one drug if you're lucky and milk the profitability over the long term. In the short term, the returns are still too small to re-invest or barely pay back the interest component of the upfront NRE loans. The company is still better off using that upfront capital to invest in a higher return product even if that higher return lasts for a shorter period of time.

Lets say you have $1M to invest and there is a company that is guaranteed to return a net profit of 5%/yr for the next 30 years, and another company that is little more risky but will likely return 25%/yr for 5 years. Even though it might seems like the end result of 5%*30 is higher, it isn't. After 5 years you now have a bigger pool of money to re-invest in other higher return ventures. Obviously if you have unlimited money you can do both. But, there are far more potential high return drug ideas to develop than there is accessible money.

The real problem is why does it take $1B+ to bring an antibiotic to market. Even Penicillin would not exist if it cost that much (in time adjusted currency) to get it off the ground. The reason is that $1B+ is not the actual cost of development, but also the amortised cost of all the failed drug developments/approvals (using hollywood style accounting). The approvals process is also onerous (in both cost and time), along with the corporate culture of huge marketing budgets, political lobbying, and top heavy running costs.

If you like the idea of a regulatory solution, then other incentives would be far more beneficial to the end goal. Such as making all drug approvals subject to audited evidence that some percentage (e.g. 50%) of general drug research expenditure is also made in particular classes of lower return antibiotics, or financial/tax incentives for brining a functional antibiotic to market. Obviously a lot of good possibilities, but I highly doubt that a 30yr monopoly on a low yield investment is one of them.

BTW, the above reasoning applies to patents in general, and why I personally believe that patent publication should be immediate and the duration should be industry specific. And along with a ridiculously low bar of 'inventiveness', 20yrs is too long in most (if not all) industries.

Comment: Re:It's been going on for years (Score 1) 388

by pipedwho (#48807453) Attached to: UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them

I remember the big hoohah when the "The Day After" was shown on TV in '83 and the school sent home a notice recommending not letting the kids watch it as it may traumatise them. I was in middle school at the time in Silicon Valley and there was definitely a fair bit of paranoia on the subject in the early '80s.

Of course that same year I was probably getting frowned upon for playing Gamma World or Paranoia during lunch and recess.

Comment: Problem is poor attitude, not lack of knowledge (Score 1) 388

by pipedwho (#48806943) Attached to: UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them

This is like assuming that all Olympic coaches have to be better than the champions that they produce.

The trick isn't knowing more than the students, but knowing how to maximise the students learning experience with appropriate suggestions and directional guidance.

Obviously there is a minimum level of skill/knowledge required, but there is a very wide scope where knowledge/experience/wisdom may not overlap between the student and teacher. It is up to the teacher to leverage this differential to push the student forward.

Problems pop up when the kids get arrogant and think they know far more than they really do. This usually leads to a disrespect between the teach/student. And for teachers that take this personally, it ends up becoming a play for power and control.

A bit more humility (either real or faked/learned) can go a long way.

Comment: "Growth is slowing" (Score 3, Interesting) 155

by pipedwho (#48750797) Attached to: The Fire Phone Debacle and What It Means For Amazon's Future

Gotta love investors that shiver at a slowdown of the second derivative of the growth curve. Amazon is still growing and the growth is increasing, just not a fast enough increase of growth growing.

Amazon is a huge successful brand with multiple obvious methods of income from product retail to cloud services.

This seems like a bunch of investors not liking how Bezos is spending their money.

Comment: Re:If you point the camera on a politician.. (Score 1) 440

by pipedwho (#48613295) Attached to: Federal Court Nixes Weeks of Warrantless Video Surveillance

More likely is that 6 lines was enough general text where Richelieu could inevitably find subset that could be taken out of context from the whole where the inference would be contradictory or cross purpose to the original text.

For example:
One may write: The assumption that I would kill a man is preposterous.
After omissions of text at the beginning and end: I would kill a man.
The argument: Were these words not truly written by your own hand?
The result: An innocent man goes to the gallows.

Comment: Re:Really... (Score 1) 190

by pipedwho (#48578997) Attached to: Sony Reportedly Is Using Cyber-Attacks To Keep Leaked Files From Spreading

The second amendment says nothing about defending yourself. It is simply about being free from harassment by government in owning and carrying 'arms'. It says nothing about using them against another person, and it seems to imply that it is for the purpose for maintaining a well regulated militia. The definition of 'arms' is intentionally generic so as to not exclude any particular type or category of 'armament'. Obviously it has been watered down by various States and case law, but not yet to the point of a blanket requirement that it only apply to a self-contained physical apparatus.

Beyond that, the concept of self defence is founded in common-law where it is deemed reasonable that you should be able to defend yourself against an attacker to prevent or minimise injury. Further to this, if it is legal (and reasonable) for you to be carrying a weapon (or tool) at the time, then using that weapon (or tool) for self defence is also a valid legal defence to prosecution of the self-defender.

However, you are correct in that retaliatory strikes are not self-defence. And whether or not a weapon or other tool is used to perpetrate the act is inconsequential to the fact that you then become the offending party.

No problem is insoluble in all conceivable circumstances.