Letter from the Editor

Trends in Biotechnology - Opportunities and Threats for Developing Countries!?

Stefan Picker, Beatriz Garcia

Biotechnology is one of the “hot spots” in research and development in this century. Great chances and opportunities lie ahead, but also tremendous threats. While technology and knowledge is easily available all over the world, it can be quite difficult to access markets and to commercialize biotechnological products. What are the main obstacles? What are the newest scientific insights? How can developing countries bring biotechnology successfully to the market?

Biotechnology, regardless of red, green or white biotechnology, promises high profits. However, the field is also complex, fast moving and costly. Especially in the field of medical applications there are many risks associated with biotechnology. One example is a drug developed against multiple sclerosis, which had possible profits of 3$ billion. After two patients developing a rare brain disease in clinical trials the profits vaporized and the stock market were in an uproar. Nevertheless does the United Nations Development Program see “biotechnology innovation and globalization as a means of helping the poor of the world live fuller, richer and more secure lives”. Only through commercialization this promise will come true.

Commercialization is converting or moving technology into a profit making position [1]. What are the major problems? How to commercialize biotechnology best? And as most research in this area focuses on either the US or Europe: What are the specific problems companies and institutes in developing countries face?
In our opinion the most important point is to bridge the gap between technology and markets. The matching of technological challenge and market challenge is difficult and many tools have been developed to address this problem [2]. Why does this problem still exist?

First of all there is always a difference in doing business and doing science. And second, taking into account the enormous amounts of publications in the field of biotechnology each year, it is obvious that it is very difficult to keep up with the fast moving technology on the one hand and the market developments on the other. In an extreme case, e.g. nutraceuticals, you have both the fast moving biotechnology and the fast moving food market.
In this Special Issue of the “Journal of Business Chemistry” we address the problems of biotechnology, especially in Latin American countries like Cuba or Brazil.
The 14th International Scientific Congress CNIC 2005 in Cuba – with many sessions devoted to biotechnology and the commercialization of it – gave a good overview of the developments in this field. This Congress was organized by the Cuban National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC), which was founded in 1965. Currently it is devoted to scientific research in important fields like natural, biomedical and technological sciences.
This Congress (from June 27th to 30th) had as a slogan “40 Years at the Service of Science and Technology“ and was an ideal space for meeting foreign (250 delegates) and national (600 delegates) specialists in different fields of scientific research. Many research topics were discussed, to mention just a few: Natural Products from Plants and Phytotherapeutical  Products, II Symposium on Infectious Diseases: Vaccines and Adjuvants, Diagnosis, Immunology, Molecular Biology and Proteomics, Systems for Fast Diagnosis in Microbiology and the First International Symposium on Scientific-Technological Prospects.
From this International Conference very few papers were selected and then again reviewed by the “Journal of Business Chemistry”.

Although there were many good works, we could not take all articles. We tried to get a very varied overview of the topic from a scientific, commercial and social point of view and thank all authors for their great contributions.
This Special Issue (Vol. 2, Issue 3) on Biotechnology of the “Journal of Business Chemistry” will give some new insights into protein expression and its possible use in disease treatment, as well as an example of a political initiative in Brazil to foster nano- and biotechnology. We also present articles with some interesting patent analysis and others, which give a theoretical social and techno-economic point of view.
For the first time, we also have a commentary section in the “Journal of Business Chemistry” where people can discuss their opinion in certain fields connected to the articles presented.                                    
For us it seems clear that one can only be successful in “bringing biotechnology to the market” by cooperating with others. This might be true especially for small companies and companies in developing countries. First, firms should develop a sense of what they can do best and what their strategy is. Second, they should find the right partner for fulfilling the aims. Thus biotechnology might yield high profits for all!


[1]     Siegel, R.A., Hansen, S., Pellas, L.H. (1995) Accelerating the commercialization of technology: Commercialization through co-operation; Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 95 (1), pp. 18-26


[2]     Maine, E., Probert, D., Ashby, M. (2005) Investing in new materials : a tool for technology managers, Technovation, Vol. 25, pp. 15-23

Now enjoy reading the Special Issue of the Journal of Business Chemistry in 2005. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send us an e-mail to contact@businesschemistry.org.