Since Francis Crick and James Watsons’ breakthrough discovery of the double DNA helix in 1953, a completely new area of cutting-edge science has grown under the name of biotechnology. It implies using biological processes, organisms or systems to develop products intended to improve the quality of human life.
No other sector enhances quality of life, knowledge, innovation, productivity and environmental protection like biotechnology. From new drugs that can address unmet medical needs and fight epidemics and rare diseases, to industrial processes that use renewable feedstocks instead of crude oil, to drought-resistant crops that allow farmers around the world to feed more people under ever-harsher climatic conditions, promoting and investing in biotech pays economic, social and environmental dividends.
Biotechnology is also already part of our daily lives. Countless people have taken biotech-enabled genetic or blood tests, or worn clothes made of genetically modified cotton requiring fewer chemicals and pesticides to grow. Numerous lives have been improved or saved with biotech-enabled drugs such as insulin, vaccines, interferon or other monoclonal antibodies.
Biotechnology has been a cornerstone of Europe’s competitiveness in terms of research and innovation as well as in terms of industrial growth, number of jobs and new companies created in Member States for numerous years. However, we need to ensure this will continue and that Europe not only remains the world’s biotech research hub, but that European citizens also reap the benefits of innovative biotech products derived from that research.
Awareness-raising is essential to achieving that, enabling people across Europe to learn about biotech and how it helps create a healthier, greener, more productive, and more sustainable economy. European Biotech Week was launched four years ago with just this purpose, and in 2016, 135 activities ranging from open doors, symposiums and round table discussions to hands-on experiments and theatre shows took place across 16 European countries in the areas of science, education, policy, media, entrepreneurship and finance. For the first time, the 2016 edition also went global with Global Biotech Week expanding the fun on three other continents.
European Biotech Week remains very much an open, inclusive initiative, free of charge and not driven by commercial interests. The people, organisations and companies who care about biotech or are active in biotech make the week happen. Its fifth birthday is coming up from 25 September to 1 October 2017, and we invite the biotech community to start planning events and activities during which they can truly engage with citizens to debate and explain in whatever way best fits their mission and resources why there is no science like biotech science!
Flip through last year’s magazine to see what happened below.