Business Plans and Science

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By 1946dodge
July 17, 2001

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Lately, and probably as long as Celera has been in existence, many have asked what the business plan and focus will be for the company. They want a well organized business plan with schedules, cost estimates, profit estimates, Plan B... all the ingredients that make up a healthy business that people can invest in, and have an idea about what they would expect as a gain for owning the company for X years.

The trouble with this way of thinking is that in a company that is working to capitalize on a new science that it was instrumental in developing, there can be no clear direction, no firm business plan.

Although we crave a focus, a direction, a set of goals, we cannot have them. This is because all companies that are engaged in exploiting and creating discoveries cannot at the beginning of each day know how to do their job for that day. They have to invent or discover how to do their work, which isn't even defined yet.

Suppose tomorrow someone at Celera looks at a gene sequence on a person with a history of cancer, and compares it with the sequence of a mouse that has the same trouble. And then suppose he compares it with the sequence of someone who never had cancer. Suppose this person figures out exactly what the difference is, and it then occurs to them how to genetically engineer a correction. Well, maybe they have an approach.

The business plan then radically changes from the day before. Now they must investigate this line of research to see it through. The day before, their plan was to provide SNPs of people with cancer to a research institution, and today they are trying to see if their new breakthrough is going to bear fruit. This breakthrough may well radically alter the direction of the company for quite some time.

This is the nature of privatized science discovery.

The business plan is, by the nature of the business, as volatile as the stock price. This is the type of business we have chosen to invest in, and we must in spirit support the efforts of the company to go for it, and never mind the short term profit plan. They have bigger things to think about.

If a research organization is continually interrupted to pacify stockholders or justify itself to the investors, it will quickly spend all of its time on Dog and Pony shows for the benefit of soothing the financial nerves of the investors.

To be a part of this company means you need patience and faith.