Bio News

February 1, 2006

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe-02-01-2006, Volume 18, Issue 2

The total area of land planted with biotech crops was up 11% in 2005. An extra 17 billion m2 of crops were planted, contributed to by 250000 new farmers and four new countries. The most popular genetically modified crop remained herbicide tolerant soybeans, which made up 60% of the total global area. Maybe the most significant new planting of 2005 was the Iranian crop of biotech rice — the staple foodstuff of the world's poorest people. The crop could possibly help in the UN's Millennium development goal to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 50% by 2015.

Farmers plant biotech crops

Huge boom witnessed in GM cultivation

The total area of land planted with biotech crops was up 11% in 2005. An extra 17 billion m2 of crops were planted, contributed to by 250000 new farmers and four new countries. The most popular genetically modified crop remained herbicide tolerant soybeans, which made up 60% of the total global area. Maybe the most significant new planting of 2005 was the Iranian crop of biotech rice — the staple foodstuff of the world's poorest people. The crop could possibly help in the UN's Millennium development goal to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 50% by 2015.

So far, farmers in China, India, South Africa, the Philippines and other regions have benefited from biotech crops. The world's major planter remains the US, which planted 55% of the global total, though Brazil is the fastest growing with an 88% increase in biotech soybean area.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) projects that the global value of biotech crops will increase by $0.25 billion in 2006 reaching $5.5 billion.

www.isaaa.org

Hwang Woo-suk engineers results

At the forefront of one of the most exiting scientific and medical fields, Dr Hwang Woo-suk appeared to have made discoveries that could change the shape of medicine forever. The claims that his team created 30 cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them resulted in a whirlwind of publicity and speculation.

Has it all been a tissue of lies?

The fall from grace has, however, been rapid. Dr Hwang has been stripped of his national honours and forced to resign key posts after his work was exposed as fake. He alleged that junior researchers deceived him though accepted the responsibility for the work on which he was first author.

The news came as a blow to South Koreans who held Dr Hwang in high esteem, seeing him as one of their country's most prominent figures. The revelations have also called into question the whereabouts of the government funding of at least $3 million a year he received as 'top scientist', an accolade the South Korean government have recently stripped from him.

Dr Hwang could face yet further embarrassment if he and his team are charged with fraud and embezzlement.

www.snu.ac.kr

Pharma faces biogenerics threat

The next big battleground between branded pharma and the generics industry is probably going to be biogenerics — also known as biosimilars or follow-on protein products.

Given the huge amounts of money generated by biological therapeutics for big pharma, it is only natural that generics players will want to muscle in. Now that regulatory authorities, particularly in the EU, are making real progress in providing regulatory guidelines, a new report predicts that a first generation of biogenerics could be on the EU market this year. This would pose a serious threat to current biologic products, particularly insulin, human growth factor, epoetin, colony stimulating factors, interferon alpha and interferon beta. However, exact generic copies will almost be impossible to produce because of the very nature of biologics, which, in turn, has cost and complexity ramifications for all stages of biogeneric development and commercialization.

www.datamonitor.com

Biotech growth in manufacturing

The Biotechnology Industry Organization hosted the Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in Honolulu (Hawaii). The summit explored industrial and environmental biotechnology, highlighting life science technology use in manufacturing processes.

The convention looked at conversion of the petroleum-based economy to a bio-based economy, where biotech solutions can replace oil-based products. Biotech has already made significant in-roads on oil's monopoly, and the scope for future developments is huge. The use of biotech in consumer products is already well-established with detergents and contact lens cleaners two of the most widespread. Biotech enhanced enzymes can improve the efficiency of ethanol production from cellulose-containing crop residue, which can, in turn, replace petroleum products in vehicles.

Another area addressed was the crossover of marine and industrial biotech, highlighting the benefits to both. The marine ecosystem holds thousands of organisms, with huge genetic diversity; with this diversity comes possibilities for biotech development of billions of unexplored compounds and structures.

www.bio.org