EDITORIAL: Biotech can show pharma the way

The development of biotech is probably the single most significant

change to have happened in healthcare in a generation. And in the same

way that dot-coms gave the blue-chips ideas, the entrance of biotech has

shown pharmaceutical companies just how proactive PR can be.



The key difference of course is that unlike the dot-coms - most of which

have business models akin to paper castles - the biotech industry is

developing real products which will sustain the pharmaceuticals for

decades to come.



In the best tradition of an upstart sector, biotech is teaching the old

dog new tricks, as our feature shows (see p. 15). In order for biotechs

to keep investors happy, they need to keep them informed about the

progress of drugs that are in development by their pharmaceutical

company partners.



But for the pharmaceutical firms, used only for releasing minimal

details of progress, this represents a significant cultural change.



It's a cultural change that is evidently being embraced. Recognizing

that biotech has come to represent the future of R&D, they also have a

vested interest in supporting them in the long-term.



But even as healthcare PR is embracing this new openness, there are

obstacles.



The FDA officially forbids any 'promotion' of a drug before it is

approved, although in reality, say insiders, it is possible to indulge

in some communications.



But which ones? When? How long before approval?



If the law is tightened, it would damage the PR industry, as well as

limit future drug funding and development. To get around this, PR must

focus on product development as a business story rather than

marketing.



In other words, pharma needs biotech more than ever.



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