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Biopharmaceuticals, also known as biologic medical products, are drug products manufactured using biotechnology. Biopharmaceutical drugs are structurally similar to various compounds within the body. Over time, drug development has progressed from small-molecule compounds to large molecule proteins and other accompanying biopharmaceuticals. The discovery of biopharmaceuticals has significantly improved the healthcare delivery. It has provided a shift in providing cures for chronic illnesses such as refractory cancers, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc., thereby improving the affected patients' quality of life.
The use of biopharmaceuticals for therapeutic purposes dates as far back as the 19th century, with recombinant human insulin being the first approved biopharmaceutical used for therapeutic purposes in human beings. Over the last three decades, the biopharmaceutical industry has experienced notable growth and is expected to contribute to some remarkable pharmaceutical industry developments. Biopharmaceutical offers a wide range of advantages and benefits to pharmaceutics, and here, we would be exploring these benefits. We would also examine the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process, notable examples of biopharmaceuticals, and more.
What are biopharmaceuticals?
These complex medicines are proteins (monoclonal antibody), sugars (glycan), nucleic acids (RNA, DNA), living cells, or tissues extracted or semi synthesized from a biologic source by biotechnology for in vivo diagnosis or therapeutic purposes.
The majority of biopharmaceuticals are synthesized or derived from living organisms or genetically modified cells and organisms. They cannot only lessen symptoms or treat chronic diseases but also cure them with little or no side effects because of their origin and specificity. Some biopharmaceuticals include enzymes, antisense drugs, cytokines, monoclonal antibodies, gene therapy, cell therapy, etc.
Biopharmaceuticals have helped personalize the treatment process to meet the specific health needs of patients. This is achieved through the modification of drugs genetically through DNA-recombinant technologies or cell fusion to alter specific factors to cure, prevent, or diagnose individual diseases.
How are biopharmaceuticals made, and why?
As opposed to chemical synthesis through which conventional medicines and drug products are made, biopharmaceutical drugs are synthesized through more complex processes from living cells. With the rapid growth of the biopharmaceutical industry and the discovery of new biologic therapies, the term biopharmaceutical (biologics) refers to a variety of medicines and drug products. The diversified portfolio contains various drugs produced by different biotechnological methods and techniques.
These drug products are not made from chemical mixtures but rather from living organisms. Experts in cellular biology, biochemistry, and several other fields carry out biologic testing and analysis (using analytical methods) to ensure that the desired end product is made.
For example, biologics used to treat joint pain are made by adding a DNA into a living cell such as a yeast or mammalian cell to enable the production of a specific molecule in large amounts. These molecules are usually therapeutic proteins that are isolated and utilized as active ingredients.
When newly introduced, biopharmaceuticals focused solely on developing recombinant protein such as enzymes (TPA) and hormones (insulin, erythropoietin, growth hormone, etc.) through recombinant DNA techniques. With time, they have delved into the design and development of chemically defined cells, manufacturing of monoclonal antibodies, and genome-based technology. These new techniques have improved the pharmaceutical manufacturing process and created new treatment options for different diseases.
Like every other drug, biopharmaceutical drugs are produced for therapeutic purposes, but with a catch. They are produced majorly to cure chronic and dilapidating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and several others. The manufacturing of these drug products also aims at providing effective, safe, and cost-effective drugs for therapeutic purposes.
What is the biopharmaceutical industry?
The biopharmaceutical industry is an essential subset of the pharmaceutical industry. It is comprised of biopharmaceutical companies that discover, develop, produce, and market biopharmaceuticals. The drug products made are used to diagnose, treat, prevent, and cure diseases when administered to patients. This industry deals majorly in biopharma drugs and medicines produced via the biotechnological process from living entities such as micro-organisms, living cells, tissues, or organs of humans and animals. The biopharmaceutical industry successfully merges between biotech and pharmaceutical companies to provide better and safer healthcare to patients.
What is the difference between biopharmaceutic and biopharmaceuticals?
Biopharmaceutics is simply pharmaceutics that deals with biopharmaceuticals. It is a branch of pharmaceutical science that examines the physiochemical properties of drugs, their toxicology, pharmacology, dosage forms, and patients' clinical response to drugs, biopharmaceuticals inclusive. The recommended dosage and dosing interval varies for different drugs, and it significantly affects their efficacy and safety. Biopharmaceutics provide adequate information and understanding of the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of biopharmaceutical drugs, their metabolites, and their effects on the body. Through biopharmaceutics, biopharmaceutical drugs can be evaluated based on their properties and effects on the body.
On the other hand, biopharmaceuticals refer to inherently biologic pharmaceuticals extracted, synthesized, or semi-synthesized from live forms using biotechnological methods. They constitute a significant part of the drug products examined and evaluated in biopharmaceutics to improve healthcare delivery and, in turn, the quality of patients' lives.
How are biopharmaceuticals manufactured?
The rapid advancement of genetics and molecular biology has played a significant role in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process. The introduction of new and refined techniques such as protein purification, host system, etc., has positively impacted the efficacy, capacity, and safety of biopharmaceuticals produced.
There are many biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes, and they vary based on the type of drug product to be produced.
Where is biopharmaceutical manufacturing heading?
With several emerging technologies in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process, the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process is expected to take a huge turn. With over 1000 biopharmaceuticals in clinical trials, the majority of drugs in the future may be biopharmaceuticals. The increased need for biopharmaceuticals and the constant advancement in biotech will impact biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Given the various advantages of gene therapy, biopharmaceuticals' manufacturing process is likely to focus more on gene therapy in the future.
What is the process involved in the process of manufacturing biopharmaceuticals?
The process of small-scale and large-scale biopharmaceutical production varies. However, biopharma companies produce to indulge in large-scale biopharmaceutical production. The processes involved in manufacturing these drugs are complex, lengthy, and largely differ depending on the end-product. Generally, the processes include biosynthesis, purification, formulation, and final dosage preparations.
Materials and equipment are sterilized at the biosynthetic stage, and a cell culture or biologic extract is harvested or collected in a bioreactor to grow and multiply. During the purification process, cells, tissues, enzymes, or desired products are separated from surrounding nutrients and byproducts to produce the bulk product. Unlike conventional drugs mixed with other chemical components during formulation, biopharmaceuticals are made and sold as sterile products. Although they are sold as sterile products, biopharmaceuticals are packaged in similar ways as conventional drugs before distribution and sales.
This description gives a general knowledge of the manufacturing process carried out. Nevertheless, there are special intricate biotech processes that can be carried out and some include continuous manufacturing, and other processes requiring single use technology.
What special considerations must be made when manufacturing biopharmaceuticals?
Consistent safety, effectiveness, and quality are the essential factors that must be considered during the biopharmaceutical manufacturing process.
The manufacturing processes of each biopharmaceutical product must be designed to produce consistent quality and safe biopharmaceutical drug products. This involves the complete removal of contaminants and impurities such as viral contamination, endotoxins, cell membranes, and others from the separated product. Also, regular rigorous and well-documented checks and examinations on the efficiency and performance of the materials and equipment must be carried out to validate the manufacturing process.
Benefits of biopharmaceuticals
Given the structural composition and origin of biopharmaceuticals, these bio drugs provide several health benefits to patients and, in extension, the healthcare industry and healthcare professionals. The emergence of biopharmaceuticals has provided patients with a better shot at quality life and longevity.
How do patients benefit from biopharmaceuticals?
Biopharmaceutical drugs, unlike conventional medicines, mimic the structures of human compounds, and this gives biopharmaceuticals the potential and ability to cure diseases more effectively. They also produce fewer side effects due to their high specificity, unlike the traditional medications that are capable of affecting multiple systems simultaneously. Given their similarities with human compounds, they are very safe and highly effective.
Also, these drugs can be genetically modified to allow healthcare professionals to tailor treatments to meet patients' specific health needs. In addition, some generic drugs play crucial roles in providing patients with curative and diagnostic benefits.
However, one of the greatest potentials of biopharmaceuticals that also serves as an essential benefit to patients is gene therapy. Through gene therapy, conditions characterized by rapidly dividing cells due to mutated or defective genes, such as cancer, can be cured. Unlike some cancer drugs and other medications also, biopharmaceutical drugs are non-carcinogenic. The innovation of biopharmaceuticals also aids in producing varieties of vaccine to prevent infection and the spread of infectious diseases in patients.
Generally, bio drugs improve longevity, increase life expectancy, provide welfare to the population, and provides several public health benefits.
How does the healthcare industry benefit from biopharmaceuticals?
The impact of biopharmaceuticals and biopharmaceutical innovation on health care professionals also tells on the healthcare industry. Biopharmaceuticals have a massive positive economic impact, and other healthcare industry benefits that cannot be ignored. The development and availability of the various biopharmaceuticals in the pharmaceutical market will increase access to bio drugs, cost-effective medicines, and a boost in the global pharmaceutical market. Also, the ease of commercial production of biopharmaceuticals boosts the healthcare industry's economy and market growth.
How do healthcare professionals benefit from biopharmaceuticals?
Biopharmaceuticals and biopharmaceutical innovations provide outstanding benefits to healthcare professionals. It provides healthcare professionals with a variety of safe and efficient curative and therapeutic options for their patients. Therefore, in cases where a particular bio drug doesn't produce the desired therapeutic effect in a specific patient or has undesired side effects, other alternatives within the same drug family can be administered. Also, biopharmaceutical innovation provides job opportunities for healthcare professionals and individuals in different fields of practice.
Examples of common biopharmaceuticals
There are various biopharmaceutical products, and the majority of these products are widely known. Some common biopharma products include insulin, blood factor IX and VIII, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, tissue plasminogen activator, therapeutic antibodies, glucocerebrosidase, interferon α, and β, and GSCF. These form the most common examples, but they fall into the different biopharmaceutical classes, including hormones, clotting factors, blood products, vaccines, cytokines, and growth factors.
Where can some common biopharmaceuticals be found?
Biopharmaceuticals are derived and produced from various cells. They can be extracted and synthesized mammalian cell lines, microbial cells (yeast culture or recombinant E. coli), moss plants, and plant cell cultures. The majority of these sources are readily available and accessible at all times. These sources are origins from which the drug development process spans.
Who commonly uses biopharmaceuticals?
Biopharmaceuticals are primarily used for patients. However, most of the patient population that uses biopharmaceuticals are patients with long-term diseases such as psoriasis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. The elderly constitute the majority of patients affected by either of these chronic conditions. Also, cancer patients form a significant percentage of the patient population using biopharmaceutical products.
What industries can common biopharmaceuticals be found in?
The common biopharmaceuticals are produced majorly by the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Within these industries, these biopharmaceutical products are developed and manufactured by biopharmaceutical companies. Some of the top pharma companies that manufacture the most common biopharma products include Gilead Sciences, Amgen, Genentech, Biogen, Riotech, Samsung biologics, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Celgene, Pfizer, United Therapeutics Corporation, UCB, and Sanofi. Although these companies form the existing biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies, a new biopharmaceutical company, Clover biopharmaceuticals, presently undergoing clinical trial is set to become a top tier pharmaceutical company in this industry.
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