Bringing biotech to you

European Biotech Week – an awareness raising campaign to make biotech more transparent and accessible

Could we retrain terminally ill patients’ immune systems to target cancer cells previously invisible or resistant to conventional therapies? What about fighting the so called ‘hidden-hunger’ by increasing iron and zinc levels in rice? Or mitigating climate change by shifting the fossil-fuel energy paradigm towards a more sustainable biobased one? Biotechnology could provide answers to these topical questions. Few other sectors enhance quality of life, knowledge, innovation, productivity and environmental protection like biotechnology.

By continuously pushing the boundaries of knowledge, biotechnology challenges us to discuss where and how to apply the innovative solutions it provides for the benefit of mankind. These discussions should not take place only in ivory towers or in high-level policy meetings. Biotech needs to be more accessible, understandable and hopefully exciting to a broader audience than its practitioners and enthusiasts. The latter need to engage at all levels of society to familiarise more people with biotech products and benefits.

At least this is the thinking behind the European Biotech Week initiative, now in its fourth year and scheduled to take place from 26 September to 2 October 2016.  It aims to facilitate a genuine dialogue about the science, the people, the companies and other organisations that are working on or are interested in the various biotech sectors. In 2015 over a 100 activities took place across 15 European countries in the areas of science, education, policy, media and finance. Importantly, numerous events were related to jobs and training including career fairs and hands on laboratories for adults, students and children, competitions, open doors in companies, research institutes and museums as well as theatrical shows. At a national level, the initiative was even awarded a medal by the Italian President of the Republic.

European Biotech Week was first coined by EuropaBio, the European biotech association, and its member National Biotech Associations in 2013 to mark the 60 year anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s structure. Every year, together with their members, these associations promote the week and provide a platform for national biotech stakeholders to pool their events and raise awareness of biotech and its benefits in whatever way best fits their mission and resources. That is why the activities are as varied as the stakeholders themselves. “We really hope that European Biotech Week becomes a self-perpetuating week like European Researchers’ Night which it coincides with this year. It should be a yearly opportunity for those people, organisations and companies who care about biotech to explain what they do and what the benefits are” said Nathalie Moll, Secretary General of EuropaBio. Her team and members are keen to build on the success of last year, when events marking the week took place in a record 15 countries. “We invite the biotech community to start planning events and activities for the week of 26th of September 2016 during which they can truly engage with citizens to explain and debate why there’s no science like biotech science!” she added.

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