By Katie Terpstra

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) defines biotechnology as “the use of the cellular and molecular processes to solve problems or make products.” Applications of biotechnology include healthcare, agriculture, food processing, industrial processes, biological systems and life sciences research.

1. Biotechnology has been called the next industrial revolution. Since its inception in the late 1970’s, biotechnology has emerged as a key industry that strengthens U. S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economy and affects the quality of life for millions of Americans. A wave of major new biologic drugs is on schedule to be approved by the FDA and launched by biotech firms beginning in the second half of 2001 and extending into 2003, ushering in a new stage of rapid growth in product sales for the industry.

2. Biotech firms are hiring like mad. Despite the overall economic downturn, the industry added 12,000 jobs last year and companies plan to keep hiring through 2002. The industry’s counter-cyclical nature and the fact that young companies are moving from drug research to drug development contribute to this growth.

3. Biotech firms are profiting like mad. Standard & Poor’s projects that revenue for public biotech companies will grow to $31 billion in 2002, from an estimated $25 billion in 2001.

4. Biotech growth is not just a fad. Two important trends-the aging of baby boomers and the lengthening of life expectancy-indicate long-term growth of the biotech industry. The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that age-related ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are likely to cause about three-quarters of all deaths in developing countries in 2020.

5. Biotech plays a major role in biodefense. The events of September 11 and the anthrax attacks thrust biotechnology even further into the spotlight and accelerated efforts to be able to combat deadly biological agents.

Biotechnology has made its name with genetically engineered medicine and transgenic crops. Now that these applications are well on their way to commercialization, companies will begin applying molecular biology to the industrial arena. Look for industrial biotech to become one the next hot phrases.

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Standard & Poor’s