March 2009 Supplement

A Vital Link

      Clinical studies serve as a bridge between biopharmaceutical laboratories and the patients who need therapies. Drugs need to be tested in small populations before they are made available to the world at large. In a 2006 interview with BioProcess International, editorial advisor Michiel Ultee (vice president of Process Sciences for Laureate Pharma) said, “Until your product is tested in humans — and shown to be safe and to have some efficacy — then you really don’t have…

A World of Possibilities

      Biotechnology truly is global, with some form of the industry in progress on every continent but Antarctica. Countries such as Brazil are even outpacing Europe and North America in the advancement of biofuels technology. But as in the developed world where this industry began, we see other countries looking first and foremost to the medical applications of biotech — because historically that’s where the money has been. Some countries are building their own fully integrated bioindustrial sectors.…

Biologics New and Improving

By far the most successful applications of biotechnology have been in the medical field. The vaccine industry is undergoing a complete transformation thanks to biotechnology. And cutting-edge research is giving us whole new ideas about disease therapy using nucleic acids and regenerative medicine. Proteins and Other Therapeutics Cancer has been a primary target for many MAb “magic bullets” and a major research area for life scientists over the past quarter-century. Oncologists have identified ∼200 cancers that affect human beings, some…

Growing the Future

      No segment of the biotechnology industry has received more public scrutiny than agricultural biotech — except maybe its application to food. And none has been subject to more “hype” and high hopes for instant results than biofuels. By contrast, industrial biotechnology seems almost invisible to the public at large. In general, the more immediate the effects on consumers, the more likely they are to pay attention and either laud or loathe the associated technology. The general public…

Molecular Medicine

      In the 1980s biotechnology began to transform medicine with the introduction of recombinant hormone treatments and “magic-bullet” drugs based on monoclonal antibodies. In the 1990s, protein kinases offered a key to cancer treatment, and gene therapies promised to address many diseases at their most basic, genetic level. The 21st Century has brought us stem cells, RNA interference, biomarkers, and predictive medicine. None of these things has supplanted the others; instead, they merely expand on the basic idea…

Pursuing Excellence

      As new medicines, vaccines, biomaterials, and biofuels move through development, companies often face some of their toughest hurdles in moving from benchtop to production-scale processes. These are not only technological, but as technology advances it becomes more difficult to find experienced talent to make use of it. Some regional endeavors, such as the National Biomanufacturing Centre in the United Kingdom and the Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center in the United States are pooling skills and resources to help companies…

The Business of Biotech

      Calivin Coolidge, who served as president of the United States from 1923 to 1929, is often misquoted as saying “The business of America is business.” According to historians, however, what he really said was, “The chief business of the American people is business.” And he went on in the same speech to say, “Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.” So the real Coolidge (as opposed to the caricature…

The Human Network

      Biotechnology is not simply about science or technology, process engineering or cell lines, corporations or regulations. It’s ultimately about the people involved in all these things — and about the people they hope to serve with their biotech aspirations. It’s about scientists and technicians, businessmen and medical professionals, patients and consumers, farmers and governments, all their lives touched in one way or another by the biotechnology industry — some admittedly more than others. Policy decisions made by…