The pandemic highlights the need for a strong biotech sector

As every year, the Spanish Association of Bioempresas (AseBio) has presented its AseBio 2020 Report for understand how the biotechnology sector is in Spain. It has been a very difficult year in general; But it is no surprise that in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, demand for certain biotechnology-related products and services has increased. And it is that the pandemic has paralyzed our lives for months while researchers worked hard to bring us vaccines and new diagnostic tests to fight against the coronavirus.

Now, we already have several approved coronavirus vaccines around the world; but that has been thanks to science and technology. Biotechnology has been key to the development of vaccines, the search for treatments and diagnostic tests. But in particular, new messenger RNA types have been pointed out, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna. These new vaccines have not only been a success but have also shown that it is a technology with great potential. “Science and innovation are allowing us to recover our daily lives in the face of the strong impact of the pandemic,” he said. Ana Polanco, President of AseBio.

“Science and innovation are allowing us to recover our daily lives in the face of the strong impact of the pandemic”

Ana Polanco, President of AseBio

Therefore, as they have repeated throughout the presentation, science has been key in the pandemic. In fact, there has been a increase “Of the 70% in production and services in 2020, most have been related to the pandemic,” said Ana Polanco, president of AseBio.

Regarding the large request for PCR tests and diagnostic tests in full confinement, the industry proved to be able to face it, as indicated in the presentation. “We are a very prepared sector”, has affirmed Belén Barreiro, general director of Eurofins Ingenasa. During confinement, the team from this company created the first Spanish antibody tests with 94.6% sensitivity.

Biotechnology, beyond coronavirus vaccines

Beyond coronavirus vaccines, the biotech industry has its sights set on another challenge: climate change. The fight against global warming can be done from different angles. One of them may be to change food production. For this reason, AseBio has talked this Wednesday with the directors of two very interesting companies.

The first, Tebrio, has several products with the insect Tenebrio Molitor; better known as mealworm. “After a lot of work in Brussels, we have managed to get our products approved with this insect”, explained Adriana Casilla, director of Tebrio. Most are for animal consumption or for use with plants; although it is true that the European Union already allows the consumption of insects. However, she herself has indicated that in the future she does not believe that we will change meat or fish for “eating half a kilo of insects”. “But we have to change the production model food“, has added.

On the other hand, the use of algae as a biofuel always makes the news in the industry. But this time, AseBio has made room for Biorizon. Is company cultivates microalgae to achieve a “transition to a more sustainable agriculture”, said David Iglesias, CEO of the company. Its products are for use in agriculture and with them it is possible to enhance, protect or nourish crops.

The activity of all these and many other biotechnology companies has generated more than 10,100 million of income, which represents the 0.8% of GDP national and its turnover of almost 12,000 million euros, rises to 1% of GDP. In addition, they contributed 117,700 jobs, 0.6% of the total national employment, have pointed out from AseBio in the presentation of their report. In short, 2020 has been a year in which it has once again been shown that we have one strong biotech industry; but what still has room to grow.

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