Reading about the sophisticated advances in biotechnology is now a common, enlightening occurrence. But the field certainly
has taken its lumps over the past three decades, creating doubts in the minds of investors and periodically striking fear
in the hearts of the public. Take the late-night sci-fi thriller I awoke to one evening, where an army of diseased and highly
intelligent rats was infiltrating a stalled subway car filled with terrified passengers. Of course, the animals were sick,
smart, and reproducing offspring with similar attributes because of an experiment-gone-awry in a biotech lab — they'd been
treated with some kind of therapeutic grown in a rare plant — which was now abandoned after its occupants received one too
many warning letters from "a regulatory agency." THAT woke me up real fast.
Carol L. Fisher
Biotech fantasies have provided plenty of fodder for the entertainment field, but its real-life accomplishments in more recent
years — particularly those from the biopharmaceutical arena with viable therapeutic treatments coming to the rescue of millions
— have helped the sector reach a much higher rung on the ladder of worldwide respectability. Successful therapies based on
recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies, for starters, proved to the world that this is, after all, a legitimate field
(and business) that can and should be taken seriously.
That's not to say there aren't challenges to overcome before the industry's long-term survival and success are guaranteed.
(See Uwe Gottschalk's cover story, "Downstream Processing of Monoclonal Antibodies: From High Dilution to High Purity" and
Jim Miller's outsourcing column, "New Financial Realities Will Alter the Biopharmaceutical Outsourcing Landscape".)
But biopharmaceuticals are on a roll and they're gaining momentum. If you need to convince any doubting Thomases within your
reach, steer them toward the 2004 data: biotech raised $16.9 billion in capital in the US and $3.4 billion in Europe; US biotech
companies marketed about 230 drugs, and there were 365 medicines in Phase III clinical trials (a 25 percent increase from
2003); a worldwide surge in IPOs led to 28 deals in the US, 17 in Asia-Pacific, nine in Europe, and four in Canada. This,
according to Ernst & Young's 19th Annual Global Biotechnology Report "Beyond Borders: A Global Perspective."
E&Y's Mike Hildreth, Americas director, biotechnology, says, "Biotechnology is delivering on its promises, and the sector's
leading companies now rank among the top therapeutic companies in the world."
A far cry from the sci-fi script that depicted a disgraced biotech fleeing to parts unknown. Come to think of it, the rodents
in that flick were defeated, in part because of the original experiment. So it could be said that in the end, it was biotechnology
that saved the day. Could be, that's where we're headed.
Carol L. Fisher, Editor in Chief