Is it the next big thing or the next big hype?
Analysts and industry observers around the world have been predicting the rise of biotechnology over the next century.
At the recently concluded 19th International Congress of Genetics in Melbourne, Australia, an industry expert told 2,600 delegates that sector was undergoing a powerful growth spurt that would be long lasting.
"I think this is going to be the most exciting sector for the 21st century," said Leslie Platt, head of global consultants Ernst & Young's health sciences group, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp report.
"The technology is advancing at a rapid pace, to the point where potential late-stage targets for pharmaceutical development are being identified much more rapidly, efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before," the former senior advisor to the US National Institutes of Health was quoted as saying.
"I think the exponential growth in biotech-based pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic tests in the pipeline for approval, is testament to an industry which, although very young, is beginning to deliver real promise," Platt added.
According to Ernst & Young, there are 4,362 biotechnology firms--including 613 which are listed on stock exchanges worldwide.
The revenue generated by the industry on a global basis increased by 15 percent last year to US$41.4 billion. Australia--the leading biotech hub in the Asia-Pacific region--is home to 38 listed companies worth more than US$5 billion, and a far greater number of unlisted companies.