Biopharmaceuticals, or Biologics, are a subset of pharmaceuticals derived from living systems that utilise naturally occurring precursors in the pursuit of advancing medicine. The simplest forms of biopharmaceutical include live, attenuated vaccines and products that are extracted from humans/animals, including blood components, hormones and organ transplantations.
In industry, many peptide or nucleic acid-based therapeutics can be produced using genetically engineered cell lines. Selection of the appropriate “cell factory” is typically based on the complexity of the biologic and subsequent capabilities of the intracellular machinery, with recombinant strains of E. coli serving as a cost-effective choice for simple peptides. At the other end of the spectrum, transgenic animals can be manipulated to excrete biopharmaceuticals, although emphasis is placed on replacing this technology where possible – for example, hybridoma technology is now used to produce monoclonal antibodies.
Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs) including cell and gene therapies are a promising branch of biopharmaceuticals that occupy the forefront of the research space, with huge potential in the treatment and cure of genetically modulated disease.
Due to the increased specificity of many of these therapies, biologics present a more effective solution than their synthesised counterpart, using smaller dosages with less side effects.
Multiple industry research providers valued the global Biopharmaceutical market at approximately £180 billion in 2018, which is estimated to increase substantially over the coming years. This continued growth is fuelled by University spinouts attempting to commercialise the latest biologic discoveries and Big Pharma investing heavily in the area, leading to plentiful opportunities for laboratory, quality, regulatory, sales and marketing candidates. Contract Research Organisations (CROs) also recognise the importance of the industry, further incentivising Scientists to embark on a career in Biopharmaceuticals.
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