BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - UK biotech has much work to do to build public confidence that bioscience is a force for good, and that the industry can be trusted to act responsibly.

It is time to take stock and consider the contribution of bioscience and also to more directly confront the challenges that brings with it, Simon Best, chairman of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) said in a speech to the BIA's annual dinner last week.

Mankind has a responsibility to look after other species and the environment. However, there currently is an "endemic pessimism" about human's ability to use their power responsibly, and "a deeply felt sense that we can't trust ourselves," Best said. "This prevails not only in the anti-technology and anti-globalization movement, but is worryingly widespread in both politics and the media."

Such fear and pessimism are the legacy of a limited, though serious, litany of case studies in which science and technology were misapplied in the past.

However, Best said, the lessons have been learned and embedded in demanding regulatory processes that require the impact on human health or the environment is investigated fully before new technologies can be marketed.

One legacy from that is that modern bioscience has refined its methods. "The fundamental approach we take now is to understand the problems we're trying to fix, and then design targeted technical solutions that have as little impact as possible outside the scope of the problem."

Best added, "I find it very heartening that both the FDA and EMEA [European Medicines Agency] have recently launched initiatives to re-engineer their approaches to safety evaluation of new drugs on the basis of modern bioscience - thereby helping to realize its long-vaunted potential to speed up and reduce the costs and risks of drug development."

The majority of academic and industrial scientists today are more open, thoughtful and cautious about the implications of their work, than in the past. "The biotechnology industry can claim with confidence that if responsible scientific enquiry is allowed to thrive, then we can develop and apply new tools from the resultant knowledge to make the world a better place for all," Best said.

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