Better Times Ahead for Biotech

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-04-01-2010, Volume 23, Issue 4

This year's BIO International Convention will be occurring against a backdrop of profound change in our industry.

An uncertain policy environment, a challenging financial situation for many companies, and ambiguity within the overall economy present us with an important opportunity to re-focus and re-energize our industry's mission to heal, fuel, and feed the world. Biotechnology's mission has never been more critical. The challenges confronting our world are enormous, but the place to look for change is among the great minds of scientists and inside research laboratories.

James C. Greenwood

Our companies continue to innovate at a breathtaking pace. Today, there are more than 200 biotechnology products and vaccines approved by the FDA, extending lives and providing new hope for patients living with debilitating diseases like cancer or HIV and AIDS. More than 600 new biotechnology medicines currently are either in human clinical trials or under review by the FDA for diseases including cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more than 100 other conditions. Many other potential treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics are in earlier phases of development. Cutting edge research in areas such as regenerative medicine, gene therapy, and synthetic biology may lead to even more effective ways to not only treat, but predict, preempt, and prevent disease.


Researching and developing new therapies is a long, expensive, and risky process. On average, developing a new drug costs $1.2 billion over the course of 10 to 15 years from the time research begins until it receives FDA approval to go on the market. This includes the cost of dead ends and failed drug candidates along the away. Only five out of every 5,000 potential medicines tested ever reaches the stage of clinical trials.

We must ensure that companies have the necessary support and funding for research and development to produce promising innovations that will lead to life-saving treatments. We must have a strong system in place that protects patents and encourages future innovation. We must prioritize new policies and regulations that will create an environment where innovation can flourish.

Policies that encourage innovation will help provide the certainty biotech researchers and their investors need to continue to develop and improve breakthrough biologic medicines and treatments and, some day, cures.

Millions of people are waiting. Some are waiting for a new treatment. Some are waiting for a cure. Biotech provides the best chance we have to end the waiting and provide new hope.

Despite these challenges, biotech companies are dedicated to finding the next biologically based treatment or cure. They are willing to devote enormous energy, creativity, and resources to this endeavor, even though they know success is difficult to achieve. Now is the time to bring together the entire biotech community to work together to find solutions for the challenges we face.

I invite you to join me in Chicago at the 2010 BIO International Convention as we tackle some of the many challenges currently facing our industry. The global event for biotechnology will bring together more than 15,000 industry leaders along with 1,700 exhibitors from around the world from May 3 to 6 in Chicago. Together, we can deliver on the promise and potential of biotech to help heal, fuel, and feed the world.

James C. Greenwood is president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Washington, DC, 202.962.9200,