Political awareness of this potential dates back to 2001, when the European Commission recognised life sciences and biotech through the adoption of its life science and biotechnology strategy. Nearly twenty years later, the world has changed significantly – the globalisation of the economy, the rise of China and the US, amongst others, as a key competitors, the growing awareness that world challenges require global solutions and the growing realisation of the beneficial impact that innovation in biotechnologies and digital solutions will have for people and planet.
Europe needs to keep pace, as the revolution of life sciences and biotech accelerates.
No other industrial sector has seen so many breakthrough developments in the past decades, taking genome editing tools, which represent a technological milestone in terms of speed, accuracy and the potential for new therapies, products and processes. Biotechnology is able to significantly address unmet medical needs, enable smarter, more efficient use of natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quantity and quality of food and feed.
In industrial processes, biotechnology enables the development of bio-based products in a range of sectors helping reduce CO2 emissions and support a circular bioeconomy. Industrial biotechnology has led to the creation of new, sustainable products and services from bio-based chemicals to plastics, and food to fuel and feed. A stable, predictable and transparent regulatory framework will stimulate further industry investment in cutting-edge sustainable technologies, cementing the EU as a global market pacesetter, and enabling the achieving of its international climate obligations.
In medicine, biotechnology contributes to a healthier society by addressing unmet patient needs, notably in the areas of cancers and rare diseases, through life-enhancing and life-saving new therapies. With an ageing population that brings increasing pressures on European health systems through chronic diseases, cancer and a rise in infectious diseases, biotechnology can contribute to a healthier and stronger society by addressing unmet needs through new therapies. For example, a new treatment of cancer or a rare disease is 72% likely to come from an emerging biopharma company.
In agriculture, biotechnology offers sustainable food solutions through applying newest technologies. Biotechnology, (including genetic modification of crops), has increased farmers’ yields and incomes while reducing CO2 emissions, and the need for farmer inputs. Meanwhile, a science-based, risk-proportionate and non-discriminatory regulatory framework that allows for gene editing in crops could pave the way for products which offer health and consumer benefits, such as lower carcinogenic potential and biofortification, along with enhanced shelf life and reduced food waste.
With the European Green Deal, the new European Commission has set out an ambitious roadmap towards a climate neutral continent in 2050. With that, Europe strives to become a global frontrunner and lead the way in tackling the climate crisis. Taking the potential of biotechnology and life sciences in benefitting people and planet, a renewed focus and impetus on life sciences and biotechnology are all the more necessary. Regaining leadership in the sector should be a fundamental priority for the EU.
The development and support of a new life sciences and biotechnology strategy on EU level, is a key pledge in our 2019 Industry Manifesto. EuropaBio and its members stand ready to support policymakers and stakeholders as they look to make this vision a reality. The right moment to act is now. Together with AI no other industrial sector is as well positioned as biotech at the intersection of enhancement of quality of life, knowledge, innovation, productivity and environmental protection to help in this mission.
This article was published in our new digital edition on biotech.