Issue Date: April 3, 2006
The Three Biotechnologies
Biotechnology is a broad area of science that's broken down into three categories based on business sectors for different applications: health care, agricultural, and industrial.
Health care biotechnology involves development of biopharmaceuticals and medical diagnostic tests that range from home pregnancy tests and assays that keep blood supplies safe to quick screens for early detection of diseases. For this sector, "the sky is the limit, with opportunities abounding in genomics, personalized medicine, diagnostics, biomarkers, cell therapies, and vaccines," commented James C. Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) at its annual CEO & Investor Conference held in Philadelphia in mid-February. Health care biotech already has measurable success: At least 12 companies have biopharmaceuticals with more than $500 million in annual sales, and more than 300 biotech drug products and vaccines are in clinical trials, addressing more than 200 diseases, Greenwood noted.
Agricultural biotechnology's focus is on crop improvement and specialty products such as plant-derived pharmaceuticals. These products include genetically engineered crops that require less pesticide and often can be designed to generate higher levels of selected nutrients. Also included in agbiotech are pheromone- and microbe-based pesticide treatments that help reduce application of traditional agricultural chemicals.
"Agricultural biotechnology has changed the way farmers grow crops and raise and breed livestock and poultry," Greenwood noted. "The next generation of biotech products will offer consumers increased nutrition and health benefits, such as cereals and corn with improved protein quality, and soybeans that produce healthier oils with reduced saturated fat and trans fats."
Industrial biotech, which focuses on production of commodity chemicals, such as polymers, ethanol, biodiesel, and basic feedstocks, is still in its early years but is expected to enjoy the same successes as its health care and agricultural sisters. In addition to industrial biotech, C&EN has profiled employment opportunities in biopharmaceuticals (Jan. 2, page 35), vaccines (Feb. 20, page 57), and agbiotech (Aug. 22, 2005, page 51).
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