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The Science of Life

04th December 2019

Biotechnology has come a long way in the century since the word was first coined, but the fundamentals of communication haven't changed.

Many of us associate biotechnology with clinical treatments, and while that’s certainly a major element in this branch of life science it’s worth noting that when the word was first used, it was in connection with food production.

Károly Ereky was an expert in the rearing of livestock in early 20th century Hungary. In 1919 he published a book that coined the term “biotechnology” as a process for converting raw materials into more useful products. In the most basic terms, he was seeking better ways to fatten up pigs and feed more people.

Our understanding of biotechnology today is far more wide-ranging but the quest to feed the world is still a real one. New developments in crop modification are far more sophisticated than anything Károly Ereky could have dreamed of, and they promise to bring new sources of food for a 21st century population that will urgently need them.

How big is the global biotech market? In 2016 it was valued at $370 billion. By the mid-point of the next decade, it’s forecast to reach a value approaching $730 billion.

A sizeable chunk of that money will be spent on clinical trials, and it will be spent globally. While we’ve seen some voters, sectors and economies kicking back against globalisation in the second half of this decade, the life sciences sector continues to reach out to new markets. Life always finds a way to thrive and the science of life is similarly adaptable. It’s a fact that the geographical distribution of clinical trials is moving, little by little, from “first world” market leaders to emerging territories. Clinical trials are expensive, and in the most advanced economies they can be most expensive of all. Issues with patient recruitment and retention are also steering forward-looking biotech companies towards locations in Latin America, Eastern Europe and MENA and APAC regions. It makes perfect sense. If you can engage and retain patients at lower cost, secure good quality data and bring the added value of genetic diversity into your clinical trial, then why wouldn’t you?

Of course, you still need to communicate clearly and empathetically. The fundamentals of engagement and trust don’t change from patient to patient or from country to country.

Or from language to language.

Biotechnology has come a long way in the 100 years since Károly Ereky was looking for quicker ways to fatten up his livestock. The innovation in the sector promises to cure the world and feed the world, but before that can happen it needs to speak to the world. This isn’t an area for compromises. Let’s not cut corners with the science of life.

 

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