Life Sciences Foundation Tells the Story of Biotechnology

Life Sciences Foundation Tells the Story of Biotechnology

03.06.13 | By Stephanie Fischer

As we prepare to release the next Medicines in Development report which will highlight biologics, we invited the Life Sciences Foundation to reflect on the history of biotechnology and how it has improved human health. Donna Lock, Director of Communications at the Life Sciences Foundation, answered our questions below.

What is the Life Sciences Foundation?

The Life Sciences Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to capturing the history, preserving the heritage, and sharing the stories of biotechnology. The Foundation collects and organizes historical information to educate and inspire future innovators, to engage the general public, and to provide lay audiences with a robust understanding of life sciences and biotechnology.

Why is it important to tell the story of biotechnology?

There are many important and relevant lessons applicable to today to be learned from biotech history - stories of success, failure, innovation, and perseverance. Biotechnology will be the defining science of the 21st century. If we are to realize biotech's full potential to save and improve lives, it is critical that we understand the field's development and impact on society.

How do you tell the story in a way that the public can relate?

On the Life Sciences Foundation website, users will find timelines for the history of biotechnology dating from the 18th century to present day. Users can view by year or topic to learn about the people, places, and events that shaped modern biotechnology. Also included on the website is a growing collection of oral histories, interviews with pioneers and leaders in the field including scientists, executives, policy makers, and thought-leaders. Visitors to the Foundation's website will be inspired by the dedication, trials, passion, successes, and failures that these individuals recount. The Life Sciences Foundation is also partnering with a documentary film maker to develop a one-hour program on biotechnology to air on public television.

What are the pivotal events in the use of biotechnology to improve health?

The first important biotech-derived medical products arrived in the 1980s - recombinant proteins (hormones, cytokines, and blood factors, for example) and monoclonal antibody-based diagnostics. The invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) enabled the mass production of DNA and new kinds of DNA-based forensics and diagnostics. The invention of automated DNA sequencing propelled the Human Genome Project, and paved the way for research in genomics and personalized medicine. In the 1990s, humanized and human monoclonal antibody therapies were developed for the treatment of cancers and autoimmune diseases, enzyme replacement therapies were developed to treat rare diseases, and nucleoside and non-nucleoside antiviral drugs were introduced to combat life-threatening infections such as hepatitis and HIV. Biotechnologists continue to refine these therapies and technological platforms, while working on yet another generation of promising innovations -- RNA interference, gene therapies, stem cell therapies, and new classes of antibiotics, for example.

How can scientists, patients and others help you convey the story of biotechnology?

Those in the biotechnology industry and those whose lives have been affected by it are encouraged to share the importance of preserving biotech's history and biotech's impact on our lives. Tell us about the people and stories we should be telling, spread the word about the Life Sciences Foundation and share our website resources with others. Let us know about archival materials they may have or know of, including historical photos, business plans, lab notebooks, memos, audio recordings, and video. Contribute stories, insights and photos on the Life Science Foundation Facebook page.

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