Biotech in your life

Although we do not always realise it, biotechnology is a huge part of our everyday lives: from the clothes we wear and how we wash them, the food we eat and the sources it comes from, the medicine we use, to keep us healthy and even to the fuel we use to take us where we need to go.

What is biotechnology?

The word biotechnology originates from ancient Greek and was coined from ‘bios’ (everything to do with life) and ‘technikos’ (involving human knowledge and skills). The OECD (the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) defines biotechnology as “the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents”. More simply, biotechnology uses living organisms to create useful products.

Our industry works in healthcare and industrial biotechnology to meet life’s greatest needs in a carefully regulated way.

The production is carried out by using intact organisms, such as yeasts and bacteria, or by using natural substances (e.g. enzymes) from organisms. Biotechnology makes use of biological systems and processes to manufacture useful everyday products and provide services.

How can biotech benefit you

Biotechnology has been used for more than 6,000 years for many interesting and practical purposes: making food, such as bread and cheese, preserving dairy products and fermenting beer.

Although we do not always realise it, biotechnology is a huge part of our everyday lives: from the clothes we wear and how we wash them, the food we eat and the sources it comes from, the medicine we use to keep us healthy and even to the fuel we use to take us where we need to go. Biotech plays an invaluable role in meeting our needs.

No other industry is better placed to enhance the quality of life and respond to society’s ‘Grand Challenges’ of tackling many challenges. These include an ageing and ever increasing population, healthcare choice and affordability, resource efficiency, food security, climate change and energy shortages.

From new drugs that address our medical needs and fight epidemics and rare diseases, to industrial processes that use renewable feedstock instead of crude oil to lower the impact on the environment and crops that are able to grow in harsh climatic conditions and ensure safe and affordable food, biotech pays and will continue to pay economic, social and environmental dividends.

All of these technologies, and those that are still in the pipeline, promise a brighter future for Europe and the world.  For this to happen, the industry requires sounds policy decisions that support innovation and risk, as well as a public informed of the benefits of biotech, which creates a healthier, greener, more productive and more sustainable economy.

25 years of innovation

2021 marked 25 years since the foundation of EuropaBio aisbl and we have launched a year long celebration of biotechnology advances over the last quarter century. During 2021, EuropaBio’s Members have been nominating and selecting the scientific and business advances that have impacted people and planet and showcased them all, in addition to reviews of key sectors, sciences and the ecosystem in which biotechnology is delivered into action.

  • More than 350 million patients around the world are already benefiting from Healthcare biotech through the use of biotech medicine to treat and prevent every day chronic illnesses including heart attacks, stroke, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, leukaemia, diabetes, hepatitis and other rare or infectious diseases.
  • Healthcare biotech enables the development of therapies for rare diseases that are often debilitating and life threatening which effect 20 to 30 million Europeans and their families.
  • Healthcare biotech is estimated to account for more than 20% of all marketed medicines and it is estimated that, by 2015, 50% of all medicines will come from biotech.
  • Healthcare biotech increases the effectiveness and safety of the treatments as well as reducing the use of ineffective treatments and adverse reactions through its approach on Personalised Medicine. Personalised Medicine works to diagnose what one patient’s problems are precisely and then works to better adapt the healthcare solutions to suit their specific needs.
  • Healthcare biotech comprises more than 1700 companies and a market worth more than €17 billion in Europe alone.
  • Healthcare biotech creates jobs. Between 2007and 2008, employment in all departments of companies working on the development of orphan drugs for rare disease patients in the EU more than doubled, showing an increase of 158% according to the Office of Health Economics, UK.
  • Industrial biotech uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make products which improve the effectiveness of detergents so that clothes can be washed at lower temperatures and the production of paper and pulp, food, clothing, chemicals and bioenergy is done in a more environmentally efficient way, using less energy, less water and producing less waste.
  • Industrial biotech transforms agricultural products and organic waste into other substances with the aim of substituting the need for crude oil as a starting material to help fight global warming.
  • Industrial biotech can save energy in the production process and lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The WWF estimates a reduction of between 1 and 2.5 billion tonnes of C02 equivalent per year by 2030.
  • Industrial biotech offers an alternative and a safer form of global energy, vs. diminishing and volatile fossil fuels.
  • Europe is a world leader in industrial biotech and produces about 75% of the world’s enzymes.
  • Industrial biotech is worth nearly €2 trillion and provides approximately 22 million jobs in Europe alone across sectors as diverse as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, chemicals and biofuels.