A 25-Year Retrospective on the Public's Perception of the Biopharmaceutical and Biotech Industry - This month, we rewind to an article titled "Demystifying the New Biology." - BioPharm International


A 25-Year Retrospective on the Public's Perception of the Biopharmaceutical and Biotech Industry
This month, we rewind to an article titled "Demystifying the New Biology."

BioPharm International
Volume 25, Issue 3, pp. 26-27

Eric S. Langer, President and Managing Partner, BioPlan Associates

"Twenty-five years has brought a lot of change in public perception of biotechnology. On one hand, we can point to facts like the following: a disproportionate percentage of pharma pipeline products are now biotech products; biosimilars are seen as key to healthcare reform; Big Pharma is now really Big Bio/Pharma; major university education programs in biotechnology around the globe are growing far faster than many mainstream science curricula; and biopharma continues to be a strong growth segment even in a down economy.

"Yet, cartoons continue to portray biopharma as creating genetically modified mice/tomatoes, and popular movies continue to show biotech as a modern-day Frankenstein. So, although we may have replaced Jeremy Rifkin-style activism, we still have concern for the future. This incredibly complex science has the potential to improve healthcare for each of us. So the tension between optimism for the future, and fear of the unknown will keep policymakers, cartoonists, and everyday people on the edge of their seats."

Krish Venkat, Principal, AnnVen Research

"Biotech companies do not have the time or appropriate resources to educate the public. A better approach would be to support national and local biotech organizations to work with public and environmentalists to help them understand the immense benefits of genetic engineering and biotechnology."

John Curling, President, John Curling Consulting AB

"The 1988 article is interesting. I believe it describes a steady-state between the biotechnology/medical science industries and the general public. As science and technology probe deeper into our understanding of life, the complexity of our explanations or models for biological existence increases. How, then can the public keep pace with the current thesis? The answer is that we can't—we are always behind and the understanding gap is constant. To protect ourselves, we tend to live by the Precautionary Principle, which notes that, 'When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.' We are healthily skeptical. The press reports 'news' but generally has a poor understanding of the timeline from breakthrough to medical product.

Our industry needs to be cognizant of the dynamics of R&D and its translation to the benefit to humankind. For example, gene therapy was described as early as 1972, but it has taken scientific prowess until December 2011 to demonstrate beneficial treatment of Haemophilia B. A possible conclusion is that 'new biology' is still just that."


1. L. Anderson, BioPharm Intl. 1 (1), pp. 16-17 (1988).

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