Since 1982, hundreds of millions of people worldwide have been helped by more than 230 biotechnology drugs and vaccines. There are more than 400 biotech drug products and vaccines currently in clinical trials targeting more than 200 diseases, including various cancers, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and arthritis.
Biotechnology is responsible for hundreds of medical diagnostic tests that keep the blood supply safe from the AIDS virus and detect other conditions early enough to be successfully treated. Home pregnancy tests are also biotechnology diagnostic products.
And there's more to come Ã³ biotechnology is one of the most research-intensive industries in the world, spending $20.4 billion on research and development in 2005.
Who benefits? If you are with your family right now, you're looking at people who are benefiting from biotechnology. Give them a hug, and read on. Has a member of your family been vaccinated against hepatitis B, either separately or as part of an infant or child-hood vaccination regimen? If so, you have biotechnology to thank for protection against this sometimes fatal disease that attacks millions of people each year. Because the vaccine prevents infection-related liver damage that can result in liver cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls this “the first anti-cancer vaccine.”
Do you know someone who has diabetes? Before 1982, there were few options for insulin-dependent diabetics who were allergic to animal-derived insulin. That year, a human version of the drug entered the market Ã± the first ever biotechnology medicine to be commercialized. Recombinant insulin is still saving lives today, and the next few years may bring inhaled forms of insulin and other new diabetes drugs that reduce the devastating impact of this disease.
Has anyone in your family had heart disease? Heart disease is still a leading killer of adults, but its toll is dropping. From 1993 to 2003, the death rate from coronary heart disease dropped 30.2 percent, due in part to the introduction, beginning in 1987, of new biotechnology-based drugs, which allow emergency room doctors to dissolve blockages causing heart attacks. The first drug approved in this class is now used to treat a stroke in progress. The result is that a significant percentage of each yearâ€™s 5,500,000 victims of stroke in the United States may have reduced disability if this treatment is given quickly.
If a member of your family is diagnosed with breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma or another cancer, it will help you to know that biotechnology has enabled therapies over the past 20 years that are working miracles. A growing percentage of cancer patients are surviving and returning to good health thanks to these breakthroughs.
Some diseases are more likely to strike the women in your family. Rheumatoid arthritis is a good example. The disease afflicts two million people - mostly women - often during early or middle adulthood. Today, biotechnology drugs that slow the painful, joint-destroying progression of the disease are helping tens of thousands of women.
These improvements in health care for you and your family are just a small sample of the benefits biotechnology has brought, and will continue to bring, in the future. New products in advanced testing or under consideration for approval at the FDA include medications for cancer, psoriasis, lupus, stroke, HIV (both treatments and vaccines), sickle-cell disease, diabetes, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration and rare genetic diseases.
Biotechnology is helping to keep all members of the family healthy, including the family pet. New veterinary biopharmaceuticals provide better disease treatment, including anti-inflammatory drugs to treat arthritis or musculoskeletal pain in animals. Other biotech products eliminate pets' internal parasites; antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and sedatives are used to calm animals during the administration of anesthesia.
Improving Everyday Life
Sometimes, biotechnology has the biggest impact in places you never notice.
When you made coffee this morning, you probably didn't realize the filter was made with a biotechnology process that uses enzymes to bleach the paper, reducing the amount of chlorine and energy used in manufacturing. The vitamin C and vitamin B2 you gulped this morning were probably made with a biotech process that eliminates the use of toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process.
The cornflakes in the cereal bowl were made with corn grown using fewer pesticides, thanks to the development of corn that is resistant to insects and disease. The bread for your toast contains natural biotech food enzymes that help the bread rise and keep it fresh. Biotech enzymes are used to remove lactose from milk to help people who are lactose intolerant. Other enzymes are used in brewing beer or in making flavors like vanilla.
Take a look on the shelves of your kitchen cabinets. You will find products made with canola oil that contains virtually no trans fats and comes from plants grown with fewer pesticide applications, thanks to biotechnology. Other products on those shelves that are made with less environmental impact include foods containing soybeans, soybean oil and sunflower oil.