Biotech promises miracle cures

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Biotechnology is considered the next big thing. All the way back in 1996, Bill Gates said that if he could go in to an industry other than computers, it would be biotechnology. Since then the industry has taken small steps but still has vast, untapped potential.

Biotechnology is seen as a potentially lucrative sector since it is an industry that targets and affects every person on the planet. Some of the most basic yet critical problems facing humanity are trying to be resolved using biotechnology. Human population is larger than ever before. With 7 billion people and growing, we face large scale challenges like providing the growing population food and adequate healthcare. Experts predict the world to face an acute food shortage by 2050 and biotech firms are playing a key role in increasing farm productivity. This includes developing new genetically modified crops of staple foods, an example being golden rice. This variety of rice contains more beta-carotene or vitamin A than the natural variety. It has helped save millions of lives in Africa and Asia, where deaths due to vitamin A deficiency were rampant. Biotechnology even affects commercial crops, with Bt cotton, a genetically engineered form of cotton, preventing millions of dollars of losses for farmers. This is because Bt cotton is resistant to an insect called bollworm, which feeds on natural cotton, destroying crops all across the world.

Our future healthcare is entirely dependent on biotechnology, cures and treatments for diseases ranging from HIV to hepatitis are being discovered because of investment in biotech. Industrial production, believe it or not, will also be influenced by biotech as humans try to find biodegradable to substitutes for raw materials, combating climate change in the process. For example, scientists are considering using spider silk as a substitute to steel! Spider silk of the same diameter is five times stronger than steel and its use will have minimal environmental fallout.

India has been ranked among the top 12 biotech destinations in the world. With agriculture the primary occupation, the scope of genetically engineering crops and its benefits is limitless.  The industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22% and was recently value at $4.3 billion. By 2017 this is expected to grow to $11.6 billion. Health care and drug development is another field where India has an advantage, with bright minds and cheap labour both readily available.

The biotech industry is truly global and its achievements have a wide range of consequences for humanity. Massive resources are needed however to conduct research, as firms compete to secure valuable patents for their inventions. The largest and perhaps best placed firms to come up with new ground-breaking inventions are:

1. Novo Nordisk

With market capitalisation of $85.335 billion, Novo Nordisk is the largest biotech company on the planet. The Danish firm’s shares grew 35.9% in value over the last year. They primarily develop diabetes care equipment and medications but are also involved in researching treatments for genetic disorders like haemophilia.

2. Amgen

Amgen’s total outstanding shares are currently worth $78.695 billion, increasing in value by 42.9% compared to 2012. The world’s largest independent biotech firm, the American multinational’s flagship products focus on cancer treatment. Specifically, their purpose is to prevent infections in patients undergoing chemotherapy. They have planned developing more treatments for a range of cancers, ranging from melanoma to ovarian.

3. Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences is the firm that has biotech investors excited the most, increasing its market capitalisation by nearly 300% from 2012 to be worth $78.373 billion today. The firm’s hepatitis C drug broke all records to become the best-selling new drug of all time. Their current R&D focuses on treatments for HIV, liver diseases, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

4. Celgene

Celgene’s current market capitalisation is $52.557 billion, growing by 53.1%. The company’s main products focus on inflammatory diseases like ENL as well as blood cancers. Their future R&D projects look to continue their development of these drugs, creating treatments for cancers like Leukaemia and Lymphoma   along with medication for serious inflammatory conditions.

5. Biogen Idec

Biogen Idec rounds off our list, being valued at $47.157 billion, growing by nearly 50% from last year. They specialise in drugs for neurological and autoimmune disorders. They are currently developing drugs to deal with inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis and are also focussing on cancer treatments.