Biotech’s Potential: Improving Health Outcomes and Sustainability

Today’s post is written by Jeremy Morgan, Vice President, Diabetes, Lilly. Jeremy Morgan is a member of the Board of The European Association for Bio-Industries (EuropaBio) and has recently been elected Vice-Chair of EuropaBio’s Healthcare Council.

In the growing debate at both EU and Member State level on the relationship between value and access in healthcare, where do advances in biotechnology sit? This week, policy makers, industry experts and other stakeholders gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels for a panel discussion on the positive impact of biotechnology for both Europe’s citizens and economy.  Hosted by the European Association for Bio-Industries (EuropaBio), the event entitled: “Benefits of Biotech - Solutions for Europe’s growth and sustainability”looked at the progress made in the development of groundbreaking biotechnological applications and how policy can incentivize and support ongoing progress.

Nearly 100 years after the introduction of the term ‘biotechnology,’ we have seen remarkable progress.  Advances in life sciences and biotech have left their mark on a variety of sectors and yielded economic gains too. What’s more, the ongoing revolution of the life sciences knowledge base has opened the door for and accelerated the speed of scientific discovery. 

In healthcare, biotech advances through research and development (R&D) in bio-pharmaceutical medicines have already born fruit, benefiting patients and revolutionising health outcomes. Almost a century ago, a diabetes diagnosis amounted to a death sentence. Today, while more remains to be done, people living with diabetes can successfully manage their condition and enjoy long and healthy lives as a result of biotech advances we at Lilly are proud to have spearheaded. 

While the European Commission has recognized the value of the biotech economy and outlined collaborative efforts to support it in subsequent strategic documents, more needs to be done for Europe to reap the potential rewards of biotech for both patients and the economy. Against the backdrop of an aging population, the growing incidence of chronic disease compounds the pressures on already strained health care systems.  Factor in fiscal challenges in the form of flat tax revenues and calls for greater austerity in many EU countries, and it comes as no surprise that payers and policy makers alike have shifted the conversation from the value of our industry to the questions of sustainability and affordability of biotech and life sciences.

Medicines constitute a small percentage of public health care spending, totaling just under a fifth of all public health care spending across Europe. Putting Europe’s health care systems on a sustainable path in light of the challenges of our time requires an improved focus on fostering policies which allow for the biotech innovation ecosystem to thrive. Investment remains a critical component of this effort, as does collaboration. Continuing and strengthening multi-stakeholder collaborations including public-private partnerships to foster strong intellectual property protections, greater regulatory compatibility, and an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement between Europe and the United States constitutes the best way to harness the vast potential of biotechnology and pharmaceutical innovation.