Biotech science thriving but the business needs intensive care

02/16/05

Global healthcare spending exceeds $3 trillion of which pharmaceuticals account for approximately $250 billion. The European Commission sees life sciences and biotechnology as the next wave of the knowledge-based economy. By 2020 Europe will be the world's top knowledge economy says the architect of the Lisbon Agenda, Jose Mariana Gago, speaker at a major conference on the Evolution of the Life Science Industries later this month.

Startling developments in biotech, genomics and stem-cell research are promoted as offering far-reaching new opportunities in conditions ranging from Alzheimer's disease to genetic disorders like diabetes.

If the number of treatments actually reaching the market place has been disappointing, the finger is often pointed at the turbulent relations pharmaceutical companies face with policy makers, regulators and members of the public, who are themselves challenged by issues raised by the new technologies.

Speakers at the conference, however, suggest industry may not be devoting sufficient resources to the new business strategies needed to bring the science to the consumers.

Managing Director of the Netherlands Biotech Industry Association, Dr. Rob Janssen says most countries are looking for ways to improve their biotech climate but questions whether they are taking the right measures.

"Countries are investing heavily in scientific research, even when their research is already on a very high level. It would be better to invest in measures which are helpful to business." Other speakers at the conference make practical suggestions as to how this might be done.

As part of the Innogen Centre's strategy to contribute to such developments, the University of Edinburgh would welcome the endowment of a chair of innovation and industry strategies in genomics and the life sciences.

Further issues addressed at the conference include the global implications for stem cell research of President Bush's re-election, defence against the misuse by terrorists of biotech discoveries, what it means to have the property rights of the genomes of the entire population of Iceland, concerns over the applications of biological research to food, and much more.

The international conference on the Evolution of the Life Science Industries is being held by the Economic and Social Research Council's Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics, at the Edinburgh Conference Centre from 23 to 25 February. State of the art research, development and problems will be discussed and speakers with international reputations will begin to shape future pathways of innovation in the life sciences.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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