What’s the Difference Between Biotech and Biopharma?

The biotech and (biopharmaceutical) industries have both individually seen explosive growth in the last three decades. This growth is primarily due to the demand for better, more effective products and raw materials across all industries and sectors. Research and development in these fields of study see tremendous advancements in human medicine. However, the similarity between these terms can be hard to discern. This article explores the difference between biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals.

What is Biopharma?

‘Biopharma’ combines the terms ‘biology’- the study of living things- and ‘pharmaceutical’- relating to medicinal drugs, coined for use in the medical industry. Together, the terms represent the industry of study that uses biology to create new medications for human use. Biopharmaceutical experts expound further on biological processes to solve complex human health problems. 

The difference between biopharmaceuticals and regular pharmaceutical products is the basis of drug development. Whereas traditional pharmaceuticals may use only a chemical basis, biopharmaceutical depends primarily on a biological background.

What is Biotechnology?

Biotech has been around since humans began farming for food. Biotechnology is essentially the manipulation of microorganisms to create new products from pre-existing biological structures. Biotech projects include the genetic modification of animals, plants, and other living organisms.

What is the Difference Between Biopharmaceutical and Biotechnology?

Biopharma organizations manufacture pharmaceutical products such as medication, treatments, and vaccines, while biotech is the practice of manipulating organisms to create industrial or medical products. Advancements in biotechnology can be used to generate discoveries in biopharmaceuticals. 

Both these industries operate in the medical field, and both use biology in their work. However, whereas biotechnology can be used in more areas than just medicine, for example, in the agricultural and the food sector, this is not the same for biopharmaceuticals. For example, biopharmaceutical refers to the industry concerned with creating pharmaceuticals (medicines, elixirs, vaccines) from biological sources.

At the same time, biotechnology is a field of study that has evolved to impact many aspects of society today with solutions for the creation of products from biological sources.

Though the term ‘bio’ in both words implies living organisms, how these are used are different. For example, biopharmaceutical companies like Avantor use non-biological materials such as silicone to create medical products, while biotechnology uses living organisms to engineer products in various industries. 

Biotechnology concerns itself with agriculture, where it can be used to engineer the breeding of a particular plant species over another by combining cells and removing others. It also appears in the food industry through the most straightforward creation of beer, wines, and other drinks that depend on the biological process of fermentation. Biotechnology has helped humans develop genetically modified crops to support rapidly growing populations and will continue to be an important field of research as the world faces the challenges of climate change.

Biopharmaceuticals take the developments advanced through biological research and mix them with chemical, non-biological bases. This allows them to recreate the product or effect, develop commercially viable medicines, and distribute them worldwide. Whereas biotechnology may not need the use of any synthetic materials to create its products, biopharmaceutical almost always incorporates these materials. 

Though these ideas may intersect or even overlap at times, their contribution to modern science and society appears in different ways. For example, one can be used to engineer a new species, while the other is concerned with engineering more unique, better, and more effective medicines for human consumption. Understanding the difference in these fields is essential for understanding the impact they can have on the world and human health. 

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