• How are biological medicines manufactured?

    Biotechnology medicines and therapies use proteins, enzymes, antibodies and other substances naturally produced in the human body to treat diseases, including genetic disorders.

    Biotechnology also uses other living organisms - plant and animal cells, bacteria, viruses and yeasts – in the large-scale production of medicines for human use.

    Biotechnology produces information that is used to alter and improve cell behavior. Many biotech companies specialize in finding ways to deliver and apply biotechnology information to cells to aid in identifying, preventing and treating disease. Representative applications include diagnostic tests that use biotechnology materials to detect the presence or risk of disease such as cancer, genetic diseases or pollution of a cell or material.

    There are three primary areas in healthcare in which biotechnology is currently being used: medicines (also including advanced therapies such as cell and gene therapy), vaccines and diagnostics Biotechnology is offering new tools to doctors and patients to provide better diagnosis and more effective but less intrusive and uncomfortable testing for patients.

    A familiar example of biotechnology's benefits is the new generation of home pregnancy tests that provide more accurate results much earlier than previous test-generations.

  • What kind of treatments can healthcare biotech provide for the patients?

    Biotechnology aims to target the causes of diseases rather than just the symptoms. And that’s why biotechnology offers one of the strongest hopes for patients to treat diseases. Biotechnology offers patients a variety of new solutions such as:

    • Unique, targeted and personalized therapeutic and diagnostic solutions for particular diseases or illnesses
    • An unlimited amount of potentially safer products
    • Superior therapeutic and diagnostic approaches
    • Higher clinical effectiveness because of the biological basis of the diseases being known
  • What are the facts and figures for healthcare biotechnology?

    From diagnosis to treatment and in terms of medicines manufactured, healthcare biotechnology is already delivering on its promises

    • More than 350 million patients have to date benefited from biotech medicines (including gene technology) to treat or prevent heart attacks, stroke, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, leukemia, hepatitis, diabetes and other diseases.
    • Biological products currently represent 40% of the total registered products*.
    •  An estimated 50% of all new medicines originate from biotechnologies, and the proportion grows when it comes to the most innovative treatments such as: growth hormones, recombinant growth factors, vaccinations, monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancers and inflammatory and infectious diseases, cell therapy etc.
    • Healthcare biotechnology continues to grow annually at an average rate of 20% -more than double that of traditional pharma - and that it is 7 times larger than it was 10 years ago.
    • The most recent report from PhRMA** reported that more than 600 biotech medicines were being tested to treat more than 100 diseases. Among these 600 biotechnology medicines are:
      • 210 medicines to treat cancer
      • 50 medicines to treat infectious disease
      • 44 to treat autoimmune disorder
      • 22 to treat HIV infection and related conditions
      • And 22 to treat cardiovascular diseases
    *taking into account chemical medicines developed with biotechnologies
    **The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
  • What is different about biotech treatments?

    Conventional Drugs Biotech Drugs
    Normally made by mixing chemicals in a factory
     Far more complex, mimicking substances produced by the human body such as enzymes, insulin, and antibodies
    They are mostly small, relatively simple molecules and can usually be shaped into a pill and swallowed
     Instead of mixing chemicals, biotech drugs are grown in live cells in a bioreactor and then purified. The resulting drugs are almost always administered by injection or infusion
    There are around 50 monitoring and quality tests for a traditional (chemical) medicine
     Because biotechnology drugs are so complex, the manufacturing of biotechnology-based medicines requires a high level of monitoring and quality testing - typically, around 250 in-process tests are conducted for a biological medicine
    Conventional drugs, based on relatively simple molecules, are easy to copy
     The unique starting material and the complex manufacturing processes mean that it is more difficult to exactly reproduce a biological molecule in a copy


  • What is FP7

    The 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) is the EU’s main instrument for funding research and innovation. In principle, as is the case with all EU grants, the Framework Programmes are based on co-financing, although for some organisations and certain activities, up to 75% or 100% of the eligible costs may be reimbursed.

    Specific funding opportunities are announced through calls for proposals, published in the EU Official Journal and then published on CORDIS. In addition, calls for tender are published in Tenders Electronic Daily, a supplement to the Official Journal.

    A network of National Contact Points (NCPs) has been set up to give personalised help, and should be your first contact point for information and assistance. This network is the main structure to provide guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in FP7. Find your National Contact Point here.

  • What is healthcare biotechnology?

    Healthcare biotechnology refers to a medicinal or diagnostic product or a vaccine that consists of, or has been produced in, living organisms and may be manufactured via recombinant technology (recombinant DNA is a form of DNA that does not exist naturally. It is created by combining DNA sequences that would not normally occur together).

    This technology has a tremendous impact on meeting the needs of patients and their families as it not only encompasses medicines and diagnostics that are manufactured using a biotechnological process, but also gene and cell therapies and tissue engineered products.

    Today, the majority of innovative medicines, whether manufactured using biotechnology or via a chemical synthesis like a traditional small molecule medicine, as well as many diagnostic products, are made available by applying modern biotechnology in their development and/or manufacturing processes.

    Read our Factsheet "Healthcare Biotechnology: Using the human body's own tools and weapons to fight diseases" in the following languages:

    Read more about healthcare biotechnology.

  • What is industrial biotechnology?

    Industrial or white biotechnology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make biobased products in sectors such as chemicals, food and feed, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and bioenergy (such as biofuels or biogas). In doing so, it uses renewable raw materials and is one of the most promising, innovative approaches towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The application of industrial biotechnology has been proven to make significant contributions towards mitigating the impacts of climate change in these and other sectors. In addition to environmental benefits, biotechnology can improve industry’s performance and product value and, as the technology develops and matures, white biotechnology will yield more and more viable solutions for our environment. These innovative solutions bring added benefits for both our climate and our economy.    
    Read more about industrial biotechnology.


  • Is EuropaBio involved in EU projects?

    EuropaBio is involved in one EU Research projects (FP7) and has been participating or coordinating several other projects in the past.

    Current project


    The objective of the Star-Colibri project (FP7) is to promote coordination and work to overcome fragmentation in the field of biorefinery research, to facilitate information exchange and cross-fertilization, and to support break-through innovations by facilitating industrial exploitation of research results. In practical terms, we will monitor ongoing research projects throughout Europe, which will be analysed and the best will be chosen to form StarClusters, a transnational cooperation system combining project complementarities. On the longer term, the project will also contribute to shaping the European Union's policies in the field of biorefineries, through a Research Roadmap 2020 and a Vision Document 2030, as well as through contributions to the Lead Market Initiative on Biobased Products. For more information, contact Jasmiina or visit the project website.

    Past projects


    Nine European Technology Platforms (ETPs) active in the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) sector are joining forces with the overall objective of contributing to the creation of a strong KBBE in Europe. BECoTEPs analyses the cross-cutting issues and seek to improve the understanding and implementation of R&D and policies on these issues at European and MS level. One of the main results of the BECOTEPS project is the development of a white paper on the bioeconomy including several recommendations on how to develop and strengthen this sector at European level and in Member States. For more information, contact Antoine or visit the project website.


    This project develops a 'Development Capacity Index' (DCI) for biotech companies in the new Member States, highlighting the growth potential of healthcare biotech.  The project delivers a publicly accessible database of information, enabling companies to be profiled among important stakeholders including VCs, equity investors, media, analysts and makes it easier for Biotech to Biotech and Pharma to Biotech partnerships. For more information, visit the project website.

    Biorefinery Euroview

    The Biorefinery Euroview is designed to support European policy (agriculture, forestry, energy and research policies in particular) and to strengthen the European Research Area, in order to increase the competitiveness of European territorial systems in the biorefinery field.


    Bioethical practices

    The project aims at improving understanding of bioethical issues by using the daily practices of biotechnology companies, to elaborate clear and independent positions based on regularly updated scientific and technological data. It will also contribute to include industry into the dialogue with the largest audiences.


    The BioRegions network brings together for the first time, biotechnology clusters across Europe in a network with the key objectives of identifying and addressing issues that affect biotechnology company and cluster development.


    Consumer Choice

    This project, funded by the European Commission, addressed the question of whether consumers in the EU buy GM-foods when they are available on the shelves of grocery stores. As part of the ongoing debate on this and related issues, there have been many opinion polls asking people what they would do about GM-foods but few, if any, direct investigations of what they do actually do in practice when they go shopping. The project therefore also explored the question of whether opinion polls are reliable indicators of people’s actions.

    The study involved ten Member States – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK – together with participation from organisations taking an EU-view both from a consumer and an industry perspective. The report of the project can be read here.

    Life Competence

    The objective of LifeCompetence is to implement state-of-the-art competence management tools and processes, that master these challenges and make the competences in ongoing and future projects in the LSH priority accessible towards the key target groups. The purpose is to leverage the research investments made by the EC by enhancing the research collaboration process between academia and industry, in particular SMEs. Visit the project website.


    The overall aim of this Co-ordination Action is both, firstly, to anticipate the societal and ethical issues likely to arise as nanobiotechnologies develop and, secondly, to use the lessons from the European GM debate to respond pro-actively and responsibly to the probable public, media and political concerns. Visit the project website.


    STACCATO aims at assessing the competencies of the supply chain in Europe (existing or planned technologies and systems), through a technology watch and a mapping of the equipment and technology environment and the STIB. More information.


    TP Plants and Health

    Establishing a European Plant Genomics and Biotechnology Platform, PGBTP, involving key stakeholders from academia, industry, the EU, Member States and citizens' representatives will play a key role in addressing societal concerns about plant biotechnology. It aims to develop policy options on plants for healthy lifestyles and for sustainable development to drive the European plant science R&D sector towards achieving the Lisbon Summit objective, for Europe to be "the most competitive knowledge based economy in the world by 2010". More information.

    White Biotech TP

    This SSA is to establish an European Technology Platform for white (industrial) biotech, involving the key stakeholders from academia, industry, the Commission and the European Parliament, Member States and citizens' representatives. This will be essential to unleash this exploitation potential, while removing barriers, setting out coherent policies and creating broad public awareness of the potential benefits to society at large. This project will contribute to strengthen the European Research Area and to achieve the Lisbon objectives by countering the current fragmention, by agreeing on a coherent Strategic Research Agenda and by delivering an Action Plan to implement the recommendations of the Vision Paper. More information.

    Young and Innovative Companies

    The aim of the YIC status project is to develop a common plan for realisation of Young Innovative Company status in four Nordic/Baltic countries and to disseminate the experience gained to biotech organisations in other parts of Europe. Visit the project website.



    This project aims to increase the number of SMEs, particularly high growth technology companies, to invest more in R&D through participating in FP7. The project also aims to overcome existing barriers to collaborations between academic research and corporate groups and SMEs, and improve the effectiveness of knowledge transfer and financing of further development, through specialized assistance and training to make these collaborations materialize. More information.



  • What happens to genes in traditional plant breeding?

    Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the genetics of plants in order to produce desired characteristics.

    "Conventional" breeding relies on cross-pollination between two sexually compatible crop varieties.

    Generally, these are from the same species (e.g. wheat), but breeding can also take place between related species (e.g. rye and wheat to produce triticale, or blackberry and raspberry to give tayberries).

    However, the term also covers techniques such as radiation- or chemical-induced mutation.