Biotechnology – A Force in the Pharmaceutical Industry

What is a pharmaceutical product? A pharmaceutical product is any substance designed for the treatment of a disease or condition. As defined by Wikipedia, a pharmaceutical product is “a chemical substance that is used in the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, or management of diseases.” So, basically it is anything that can be used to cure or treat. While the scope of pharmaceuticals is quite broad, only a few things are considered pharmaceuticals. One such drug that is often considered a pharmaceutical product is that of an anti-viral medication.

How does pharmaceuticals differ from Biotechnology? Both pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology businesses derive their products from living organisms. Pharmaceutical companies make drugs from chemical approaches and synthetic methods. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies use living organisms for the production of essential proteins, enzymes, vitamins, and other compounds. In fact, many of the drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies utilize living resources such as DNA for gene manipulation and design.

However, what sets them apart? There are three primary differences between pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. First of all, pharmaceutical companies focus on the development of medicines and their delivery systems. Biotechnology companies on the other hand, focus primarily on the development of medicines through cell and tissue culture technologies.

As far as the cell and tissue culture technologies are concerned, both pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies are lagging behind in this area. Cell and tissue culture technologies are rapidly evolving and leading the field in technological superiority. The primary reason behind this is the increase in availability of cheap labor and investment capital. The cost factor of developing medicines has also increased the level of competition between pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies.

Secondly, pharmaceutical companies depend more on traditional chemical methods to develop medicines than on biotechnology methods. Thirdly, biotechnology is considered to be an add-on product to pharmaceuticals. Unlike chemical methods that can only be introduced one at a time in the manufacturing process of a medicine, biotechnology is an emerging technology that allows introduction of genes, cells, and other biological components as medicines. While some drugs based on biotechnology have already been manufactured, many new and improved drugs are in the pipeline.

On the other hand, biotechnology has provided a solid answer to questions like whether genetic modifications can be used for the development of medicines. However, the issue still remains open. On one side, the opponents argue that genetic modifications will introduce dangerous viruses into the environment. On the other side of the debate are the increasing costs and risks faced by pharmaceuticals due to the implementation of genetic modifications. It is these risks and costs that have deterred pharmaceutical manufacturing from using biotechnology in their product development activities. In the end, it appears that each has a point to say with regard to what is not an appropriate technology for pharmaceuticals to use in the production of medicines.

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