Biotech R&D is a branch of the biotechnology field which focuses on research and development with the goal of creating new biotechnology and finding uses for it. Numerous companies in the life sciences invest in biotech R&D, ranging from pharmaceutical companies looking for the next hit drug to agriculture companies developing new crops. Several governments also invest in biotechnology with the goal of improving quality of life for their citizens.
Biotechnology, also known as biotech, is a very large field which uses natural organisms to make products, manage industrial processes, and so forth. This field also includes the modification of natural organisms to make them more suitable for intended use. Humans have been engaging in biotechnology to some degree for a very long time; for example, alcoholic drinks are an example of biotechnology, with humans using microorganisms to ferment plants for the purpose of creating an alcoholic end product.
In biotech R&D, people consider new applications for biotechnology. Research can be quite vague or very specific, and may range from research to learn more about a specific group of microorganisms to studies conducted in the medical community to identify areas of need. Investment in research tends to be broad to encourage innovation, since one never knows where the next great idea is going to come from. One researcher's sludge, for example, may be another researcher's momentous discovery.
In the development phase of biotech R&D, people think about how the research they conduct can be practically applied. For example, people might research genetics and use that information to develop genetic tests which can be used in medicine, forensics, and genealogy studies. One goal of the development process is to come up with reliable, cost effective applications for research. Sometimes, development peters out as people realize that a research project cannot be adapted for commercial use, or discover that existing technology is too limiting for research to be useful.
The end product of the biotech R&D process is, ideally, a product which can be sold on the open market. Along the way, tests are conducted to make sure that the product is standardized, to determine how it can be used, to establish safety limits, and so forth. This can take years and sometimes decades, and in some cases the R&D must be temporarily suspended while people wait for medicine, the law, ethics, or science to catch up with the products they are developing.