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
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
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
In other words, pharma needs biotech more than ever.