Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals

How you can get involved with the life sciences of the 21st century

200 diseases, such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. The industry relies on investor capital to fund research and development until a product is approved for sale.

The pharmaceutical industry focuses on the production of drugs for distribution in the healthcare marketplace. Unlike biotechnology, for which products are biologically derived, pharmaceutical products are derived from plant and chemical compounds. Thirty-one drugs and biologics were approved in 2008, and 2,900 medicines were in development in 2009.

Although many biotechnology companies are still relatively small, the industry employs at least 200,000 people. Since 2006, the production of pharmaceuticals or biopharmaceuticals (medical drugs produced using biotechnology) has employed nearly 700,000 people. Job growth is anticipated for both industries. In biotechnology, demand is largely driven by the need for “new and innovative products, [that are] disease altering or life extending,” and directed toward the increasing elderly population, says Christopher Raymond, senior research analyst of biotechnology for Robert W. Baird & Co., a wealth management, capital markets, asset management, and private equity firm.

Renard Jackson, vice president of Schott North America Inc. and general manager of Schott Pharmaceutical Packaging, adds, “research and science [that look at] diseases that have been affecting human life for a long time like cancer and the flu are beginning to pay off.” Schott develops and manufactures special glass, specialty materials, and systems for multiple industries.

But as both industries continue to expand with job opportunities, there are also some hot-button issues affecting the direction of their growth. For one, there has been greater regulation from the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that products are safe for patients and consumers. Pharmaceutical companies are also forming partnerships or acquiring small biotech companies to develop products that address particular ailments.

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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