Open Access

Anticipating emerging genomics technologies: The role of patents and publication for research and policy strategies

Genomics, Society and Policy20095:1

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-5-2-1

Published: 15 August 2009


There is an increasing interest in scanning and assessing the science and technology landscape for emerging technologies - such as those based on genomics knowledge - because innovations are beneficial to businesses and nations, and because of the Collingridge dilemma. The latter concerns the uncertainty and manageability of technology in its early development phases versus the more solidified later stages. In this context, the assessment of upcoming scientific and technological (sub)fields or "hot spots" is of interest. In this paper we focus on methods to identify hot spots in pharmacogenomics and nutrigenomics and how this method can contribute to policy strategies. Moreover, the bibliometric results contribute to our understanding of hot spots within these genomics subfields. We answer the following leading research question: What are the main research fields of emerging pharmacogenomics and nutrigenomics technologies and how do these impact policy strategies? First, this paper introduces a novel method for identifying hot spots in emerging technologies. Following this method, pharmacogenomics and nutrigenomics show an above-average growth in patent applications. Patent search also suggests that for pharmacogenomics, countries such as Italy and France, and subfields such as cancer genomics are highly visible. For nutrigenomics, the Netherlands and Austria are important countries, while the dairy subfield proves to be a hot spot. Second, we discuss implications for policy strategies. We argue that it is difficult for policymakers to follow hot spots when they design their policy, because of the inherent tendency to "nurture" winners instead of "picking" fundamental new winners. Policymakers should be aware of this bias and research should address this issue by, for example, complementing the hot spot analysis with more interactive methods.