Innovation and adaptability is the future of Biotech

By Shantanu Mittal

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

This was the quote that Steven Burrill used to end his talk on the state-of-the-industry address at the BIO 2010 convention. He was of course referring to the imminent need for biotechnology companies to adapt to the fast changing financial, political and regulatory environment in which they operate. The biotechnology industry inherently suffers from extremely long product development cycle (10-15 years) and high capital requirements (over $1 billion), making it one of the toughest industries to operate in.

But my experience at the BIO convention held in Chicago last week showed me that this industry is far from the decline stage. With over 15,000 people from all over the world, BIO is this industry’s largest gathering. This year, the key words on everyone’s lips were innovation and change. Burrill mentioned that the economic downturn hit all industries, but the biotech industry has emerged stronger than all the other industries due to our ability to innovate. And indeed, innovation was clearly present across all the pavilions that were spread across BIO. Some notable Canadian innovations showcased at BIO were Spartan Biosciences DX-12 PCR, a smaller, faster DNA analyser that is ideal to use in laboratories and Oncogenex Technologies that won the BIOTECanada gold leaf award for the company of the year for their novel cancer therapeutics.

A lot of debate was also focused on the growth of the emerging countries, India and China and the opportunity and challenges they provide to this ‘western’ dominated industry. The rising population and the higher per-capita income of these economies provide a vast market for the biotechnology industry. The new technologies and innovations coming out of these countries have forced many well established companies to turn their head and focus on these emerging markets as equals in this rapidly changing industry. Walking about the exhibition hall at BIO and seeing the size of the India and China booths, it was very clear that these countries are doing a lot to promote their biotechnology sector.

Heal. Fuel. Feed the world. This is the only industry that is capable of achieving these essential goals and that was the promise that the BIO convention is working towards.

Shantanu Mittal is graduate student pursuing his Masters of Biotechnology from the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is currently the communications officer for the Altitude Accelerator, a role which has helped him understand the world of entrepreneurship and business development. With his expertise in the life sciences and green technology sector, he has been able to valuable feedback to clients along with the entrepreneur-in-residence. Shantanu hopes to pursue a future in business development in the biotechnology or green technology industries.


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