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Ten years hence

Ten Points about Advances in Biotech Medicine

February 18, 2005

On Feb. 18, 2005, Dr. August Watanabe, Chairman of BioCrossroads and former president of Lilly Research Laboratories, presented a talk on biotechnology, which contained the following excerpts:  

  • Due to the aging of the world's population, the incidence of chronic age-related diseases will continue to grow, particularly in the categories of cardiac disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. This trend prompts the increasing need for better medications, including biotechnology medications.
  • The biotechnology industry, which originated in 1982, will continue to show great economic growth. The number of biotech companies increased to about 1,450 in 2001 from 1,200 in 1992, while employment levels have grown to about 200,000 from 75,000 people in the same time period.
  • The effort to map the human genome has led to a greater fundamental molecular understanding of normal biology, which will continue to help biotechnologists design therapies to restore health.
  • Personalized medicine will continue to develop. This will include the use of genetic markers to identify risk of disease so that a person considered high risk can be treated before actually developing the disease. Blood tests such as the AmpliChip CYP450 will allow physicians to map a patient's drug metabolism and adjust dosages accordingly.
  • Stem cell therapy will be used to create tissue or organs for medical applications.
  • Antisthetic therapeutics, which provides methods for blocking genes, will be employed in the treatment of cancer, diabetes and certain infectious diseases, including HIV and AIDS.
  • Efforts to control drug prices and stricter regulations may inhibit the development of innovative medications by making pharmaceutical companies less willing to invest the $1 billion it takes on average to develop a drug, and by making them more risk-adverse.
  • Productivity of new drug manufacturing will be an increasing focus as the industry looks for ways to cut drug costs. Currently, only about 10 percent of the 5,000 compounds that go into development actually become drugs, and it takes 12 to 15 years from the time the decision is made to go into formal development until the drug is launched. The industry will need to double the yield to 20 percent, study fewer compounds to begin with or shorten the development time to eight years.
  • The industry will need to step up its efforts to educate the public about potential benefits of biotechnology innovations, as well as the risks and costs.
  • The pharmaceutical industry also will need to work with government to make drugs more available within the free market economy.


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