Process Economics Program Report 233
The Promise of New Technology Platforms for Biotechnology
Published: April 2000
Broadly defined, biotechnology includes any technique that uses living organisms to make products, improve plants or animals, or to develop microorganisms for specific purposes. Biotechnology emerged as a modern science with the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the 1950s. In the 1970s scientists discovered one of the basic tools of biotechnology-recombinant DNA technology. During the 1990s technical innovation in this field occurred at an exponential rate. New biological techniques based on recombinant DNA technology are now being applied to R&D in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and the chemical industry.
New biotechnology was first proven to be a source of innovation in pharmaceutical R&D, contributing as both a production technology and a research tool. Currently, both dedicated biotechnology companies and established multinational pharmaceutical companies are using the tools and techniques of biotechnology in their drug discovery and development efforts.
Now the platform technologies seen as the elements of a paradigmatic change in pharmaceutical R&D are being applied to biotechnology product and process development in other industrial sectors. Four important platform technologies that are finding application outside the pharmaceutical industry are combinatorial chemistry, high-throughput screening, genomics, and bioinformatics.
In this report, PEP reviews these four important platform technologies and some of their applications in agriculture and the chemical industry. We also cite over 150 related patents and describe the more than 100 companies primarily active in these technologies. The market status throughout the world is summarized for three industrial sectors-pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and chemicals-where biotechnology has been commercialized. An overview of development costs in the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is provided in the report along with a more detailed review of the typical costs to develop a pharmaceutical product.
This report will be useful for anyone involved in R&D to better understand the important research tools being developed through the biotechnology industry. Additionally, it provides insights into the cost of typical R&D activities and also describes the direction that the technology has taken in life sciences applications.