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Biotechnology: Pioneering Innovations Shaping the Future
11 January, 2024

Biotechnology: Pioneering Innovations Shaping the Future

Biotechnology is one of the world’s biggest industries with a global market share surpassing US$1.37 trillion in 2022. Increased by massive investments, especially in response to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has experienced unprecedented growth, with an estimated annual growth rate of approximately 14%. The trajectory indicates a remarkable surge, propelling the industry’ towards an expected value of US$2.44 trillion by 2028.

Biotechnology, a multifaceted domain intersecting science and commerce, is not only a key economic player but a catalyst for transformative technologies, standing at the forefront of innovation. As the world grapples with complex challenges, biotechnology emerges as a beacon, offering solutions that have far-reaching implications.

The latest update from ASPI’s Critical Technology Tracker sheds light on the intense competition within the biotechnology sector, emphasizing the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China. This competition is not merely economic but extends to the realm of innovation, as both nations vie to lead in a field that promises some of the most groundbreaking technologies in the foreseeable future.

The update introduces four new technologies into the biotechnologies category, reflecting the industry’s dynamic nature. These include novel antibiotics and antivirals, genome and genetic sequencing and analysis, genetic engineering, and nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. These additions complement the existing categories in the tracker, which encompass vaccines and medical countermeasures, synthetic biology, and biological manufacturing.

Novel Antibiotics and Antivirals

The quest for innovative solutions in combating infectious diseases takes center stage with the inclusion of novel antibiotics and antivirals. As the world witnessed the formidable challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for advanced therapeutic interventions became more apparent than ever.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top global public health and development threats. It is estimated that bacterial AMR was directly responsible for 1.27 million global deaths in 2019 and contributed to 4.95 million deaths. AMR puts many of the gains of modern medicine at risk. It makes infections harder to treat and makes other medical procedures and treatments – such as surgery, caesarean sections, and cancer chemotherapy – much riskier. Projections by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate an anticipated twofold surge in resistance to last-resort antibiotics by 2035, compared to 2005 levels, underscoring the urgent need for robust antimicrobial stewardship practices and enhanced surveillance coverage worldwide. In addition to death and disability, AMR has significant economic costs. The World Bank estimates that AMR could result in US$ 1 trillion additional healthcare costs by 2050, and US$ 1 trillion to US$ 3.4 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) losses per year by 2030.

As of November 2023, 178 countries had developed AMR national action plans. To ensure sustained progress, countries need to establish a functioning multisectoral AMR governance mechanism, prioritize activities, develop a costed operational plan, mobilize resources (both domestic and external), and effectively implement their plan. Monitoring mechanisms are needed to track progress, identify challenges and report periodically. To globally track the progress in AMR national action plan implementation, countries have committed to completing the multisectoral annual Tracking AMR Country Self-Assessment Survey (TrACSS) that was launched in 2016 with results published at https://www.amrcountryprogress.org/.

Genome and Genetic Sequencing and Analysis

The decoding of the human genome and the intricate analysis of genetic information represent a transformative frontier in biotechnology. This addition reflects the growing importance of precision medicine, offering tailored treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup.

In the vast landscape of biotechnology, few advancements have been as transformative and promising as the decoding of the human genome. The intricate analysis of genetic information has propelled the field into a new era, where personalized and precise medical interventions are becoming not just a possibility, but a reality.

As technology continues to advance and the cost of sequencing decreases, the widespread integration of genome and genetic sequencing into routine healthcare is becoming increasingly feasible (check link). The ongoing research in this field holds the promise of unlocking further insights into our genetic code, paving the way for more precise, personalized, and effective medical interventions.

Genetic Engineering

The ability to manipulate genes opens up unprecedented possibilities in agriculture, medicine, and beyond. Genetic engineering is a process that uses laboratory-based technologies to alter the DNA makeup of an organism. Now a key player in biotechnology, it holds the potential to revolutionize industries and pave the way for innovations that were once deemed unimaginable. Used in research and industry, genetic engineering has been applied to the production of cancer therapies, brewing yeasts, genetically modified plants and livestock, and more.

In Agriculture, for exemple, the European Commission proposed in July 2023 a substantial overhaul of EU genetic engineering regulations, suggesting that plants modified with precise gene editing techniques like CRISPR be exempt from the strict rules governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The proposal aims to distinguish new genomic techniques (NGTs) from traditional GMOs, enabling faster development of resilient, pest-resistant, and higher-yielding crops. The European Commission’s proposal reflects a balance between fostering innovation and addressing ethical considerations, navigating the complex intersection of science, regulation, and agricultural sustainability.

Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy

The fusion of biotechnology with nuclear medicine and radiotherapy showcases the interdisciplinary nature of the field. These technologies, with their applications in diagnosis and treatment, mark significant strides in personalized medicine and cancer care.

In a groundbreaking national multicenter study, scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University are spearheading research to create rare isotopes that could redefine cancer treatment. Traditional radiation therapies, while effective, face limitations in treating metastatic cancers spread across multiple sites. The team, comprising experts from various institutions, is pioneering a revolutionary approach—integrating radiation and targeted drug therapy. Specially designed molecules act as homing devices, delivering radioactive isotopes directly to cancer cells throughout the body, minimizing damage to healthy tissues.

According to the London Health Sciences Centre, Dr. François Bénard, principal investigator, describes this as the “holy grail of cancer treatment,” envisioning disease-targeting molecules eliminating cancer cells with highly localized energy blasts. The London, Ontario team, backed by $23.7 million in federal funding, aims to establish Canada as a world leader in nuclear medicine.

A Transformative Era in Biotechnology

The inclusion of these technologies underscores the evolving landscape of biotechnology and its far-reaching impact. As the industry diversifies its focus, the potential for life-changing breakthroughs becomes increasingly tangible. Vaccines and medical countermeasures, synthetic biology, and biological manufacturing, already integral components, now find new companions in these emerging fields.

The addition of novel antibiotics and antivirals underscores a pivotal focus on combating infectious diseases, emphasizing the urgency to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR). With AMR posing global health threats and economic burdens, the biotech industry’s commitment to innovative solutions becomes increasingly crucial.

Genome and genetic sequencing emerge as a transformative frontier, enabling personalized medical interventions based on individual genetic makeup.

Genetic engineering takes center stage, offering unprecedented possibilities in agriculture and medicine. The proposed overhaul of EU genetic engineering regulations exemplifies the industry’s drive to balance innovation with ethical considerations, navigating the complex intersection of science and regulation.

The fusion of biotechnology with nuclear medicine and radiotherapy represents an interdisciplinary triumph. The multidisciplinary efforts, backed by substantial funding, position biotechnology at the forefront of advancing personalized medicine and revolutionizing cancer care.

In essence, these advancements signal a transformative era where biotechnology not only addresses current challenges but propels humanity towards a future defined by precision, innovation, and the promise of groundbreaking medical solutions.

INCONCRETO, as an international consultancy, can provide expertise in capital project optimization in the Biotechnology Industry.

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We combine technical expertise with large program execution practices, improving predictable outcomes and steering profitability on Capex/Opex project investments.

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