The headline in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 13 reads: “House Passes Bill to Reduce Drug Prices.” In contrast, the article continues, “The plan would discourage investment in research on new cures and treatments,” adding that it “would siphon $1 trillion or more from biopharmaceutical innovation over 10 years, leading to fewer drugs.” So how does the future read for new cures?

In his article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 5, 2002, E. O. Wilson presents the best argument I’ve ever seen in defense of new cures and against price controls on drugs. Wilson was a former professor of biology at Harvard University and author of two Pulitzer-prize books. He said that of all species in the universe, “fewer than 2 million are in the scientific register” and that “an estimated 5 million to 100 million—or more—await discovery.”

“Medicine,” he added, “is a domain that stands to gain enormously from the world’s store of biodiversity,” and that “only a tiny fraction of biodiversity has been utilized in medicine.” There is, he adds, a “pharmacological bounty of wild species . . . [and] all kinds of organisms have evolved chemicals needed to control cancer in their bodies, kill parasites, and fight off predators.”