Two Decades, But A Lifetime of Breakthroughs

Two Decades, But A Lifetime of Breakthroughs

04.08.11 | By Kate Connors

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the New York Biotechnology Association annual meeting, featuring PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani as the keynote speaker.

I was struck by the significance of the number 20, as it indicates a good rough timeline of when biotechnology became a major influence in the life sciences sector.

For a field that, despite widespread adoption, is still viewed as a nascent science, biotechnology has led to countless groundbreaking medicines that have saved millions of lives around the world. It has revolutionized the way that biopharmaceutical research companies use science and how they develop medicines. In fact, I can't think of one company that doesn't have an emphasis on biotechnology reflected in their pipeline; contrary to many misconceptions, it is a science that is used by all sorts of companies, from young start-ups to the most well-established biopharmaceutical firms. And according to our most recent survey, roughly 650 biotechnology medicines are currently being studied in clinical trials or awaiting FDA review.

Because of scientific and regulatory demands, the discovery process can move at a snail's pace. The average new medicine can take 15 years to develop. For biotechnology to have gone from the fringes to a primary focus within an industry in just the past 20 years is remarkable.

So too has the associated medical progress been remarkable. Across many disease states, biotechnology medicines have provided hope to patients around the world. Biotechnology breakthroughs have led to new treatments to treat various forms of cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, haemophilia, cardiovascular disorders, and some of the world's rare diseases. Biotechnology has led to history's first vaccines for cancer and has helped scientists move forward in the march toward widespread personalized medicine.

I can't help but wonder what lies ahead for the next 20 years.

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