Biotech vs Biopharma: What’s The Difference?

Biotech Vs Biopharma: What's The Difference?

The biotech industry is booming. In 2016, it was worth approximately $369.62 billion and it’s only set to grow even more within the next few years.

By 2025, it’s set to be worth almost double that amount, as Husson University reports.

Is biotech and biopharma the same thing?

Although you might assume that biotech and biopharma refer to the same thing because a large amount of biotechnology research appears in the medical field, there are actually crucial differences between them that you should know about.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the differences between biotech vs. biopharma. We’ll start with their definitions.


Definitions of Biotech and Biopharma

  • Biotechnology is defined as technology that has its sources in biology. Biotechnology makes use of biomolecular and cellular processes in order to develop products that can help human health and the environment. When it comes to medical biotechnology specifically, it can be defined as a branch of medicine that makes use of living cells as well as cell materials in order to research and then create pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Biopharma refers to the biopharmaceutical companies that produce biopharma medicines. These are manufactured with the use of living organisms, such as yeast and bacteria, so they refer to medicines that are produced by biological methods.

Similarities Between Biotech And Biopharma

There’s no doubt about the fact that biotech and biopharma are connected.

Biotech includes products that arise from biology while biopharma relates to the medicines that are produced as a result of those biological processes. To put it simply, all biopharma products come from biotechnology research and production!

When it comes to their size, both biotech and biopharma are growing in popularity. Here’s how:

Biotechnology erupts out of academic labs or academic research. It’s smaller than pharmaceuticals, which is a larger business model that’s also more traditional.

However, it’s definitely rising to great heights, able to compete with big pharma in many ways. For example, research has found that in 2016 the 17 biotech companies operating in the U.S. produced over $500 million per year in revenue, as Stat News reports.

Similarly, biopharma is also growing in interest and popularity. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has reported (via Biopharmadrive) that by 2025 it will be approving approximately 10 to 20 cell or gene therapy products on a regular basis.

This reveals our need for exciting new therapies that will soon become part of our lives.

So, What Are The Differences Between The Two?

We can look at some important differences between biotech and biopharma when it comes to their research and focus.


Biotech technology makes use of a large amount of research on a range of topics that can improve our health and the world, such as ending world hunger or finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are many different branches of biotechnology that all aim to solve various problems we face in our lives with the aim of improving our wellbeing.

Research is a little different when it comes to biopharma. Promising research and applications in the biotech industry are used by biopharma to turn them into medical products. So, it’s sort of like a relay race. What biotech initiates and develops is then carried forward by biopharma.

Main Focus

Biotech concentrates on using biology to create new products and pharmaceutical drugs, as well as make use of organisms and biological processes in order to change how we do things.

By using DNA, biotechnology has helped to achieve many great things in a variety of industries, such as when it comes to producing crops that are resistant to pests, establishing biofuels like ethanol, and even developing medical breakthroughs such as gene cloning.

Biopharma is focused on using chemical processes to produce medicine. So, a biopharmacist could produce her own original molecules and then see how they affect living organisms, instead of relying on biological processes, as in the case of biotechnology.

Biotech Vs. Biopharma: Factors To Consider  

Despite the above points, it is important to consider some potential problems that biotechnology and biopharma can face. We’ll also look at the pharmaceutical industry.

Biotech companies incur high operating costs.

This is as a result of how their research takes years to complete and sometimes end up in complete failure despite their best intentions and research. This is certainly risky for investors.

In addition, biotech companies can take a long time to test and research a new product only to find that they are met with critics who stop their work. An example can be seen with genetically modified plants.

Some countries have banned these from production due to the fear that they could have negative long-term effects on human health. This has hampered the use of inventions such as Golden Rice that’s genetically modified and enriched with Vitamin A and could save millions of lives in developing countries.

Biopharmaceuticals also experience some challenges.

These include how they’re very difficult to create and can be difficult to ship overseas. In addition to these, making the move from conventional pharmaceuticals to biopharmaceuticals can be tricky because large biological drugs can be difficult to manufacture.

Their use of recombinant proteins involves genetically engineered living cells, which is an expensive process.

What about the traditional pharmaceutical industry?

When it comes to pharmaceutical companies, they have a regular income flow from their established products. However, the process that it takes for a new drug to be created can take up to 15 years.

In addition, there’s always the risk that putting a new drug on the market won’t be successful. There’s no guarantee that it will be popular with physicians, for example, even after it’s found its way into the market. In this way, the industry also confronts regular challenges. 

Pharma Vs. Biopharma: What Should You Know? 


We’ve talked about biopharma in this article already, but what about pharma? What’s the difference between biopharma and pharma? Here’s what you need to know.  

These terms are similar. For starters, both the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries create medicines that treat human illnesses or prevent them. However, the big difference is that they produce drugs in different ways.

  • Conventional pharmaceuticals produce medicines that have been made from chemical compounds, although they sometimes also make use of plant-based compounds. Pharmaceutical companies do a lot of research when producing new drugs or buying drugs that have been made in the biotech sector.
  • By comparison, biopharmaceutical companies produce medicines by making use of living organisms. They have various sources, such as yeast, bacteria, and even mammalian cells. They use these organisms to try to change how living cells work because this enables them to predict their behavior more effectively and therefore treat illnesses. Most medicines that are produced by the biopharma industry are manufactured in academic labs and they’re usually funded by venture capital companies.

The Future Of Biotechnology and Biopharma

In the near future, the production of drugs that aim to treat the vast population in the same way will fizzle away, making room for therapies and medications that are tailored to the individual patient based on their genes and other information.

A study released by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions has found that customized medication is one of five predictions we can make for the future of health and wellbeing.

Some others include the prevention of disease (this is where vaccines play a vital role in preventing illnesses in the first place) and the development of medical technology such as tissue engineering to decrease the need for pharmaceuticals.

Based on the above, it’s clear to see that biopharma and biotech aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’ll become larger parts of our lives.

Related Questions

What are examples of biotech companies?

Some of the leading biotech companies in the world include Novo Nordisk A/S, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, Incyte Corp, and United Therapeutics Corp.

What are some of the best-selling biotech drugs?

The top biotech drugs include Himura, that has a drug revenue of $12.5 billion; Remicade, that has a drug revenue of $9.5 billion; and Rituxan, that has a revenue of $8.7 billion, as Biospace reports.


Biotechnology and biopharma play important roles in our lives by making us healthier and encouraging improvements to be made when it comes to how we live and even how long we live.

However, there are important things to know – both similarities and differences – in the way they work. In this article, we’ve looked at some important facts about biotech, biopharma, as well as pharma, to get a better idea of why they’re so vital to our wellbeing.