BiotechnologyExploring the Innovations of Pharmacia Biotech in Modern Medicine

Exploring the Innovations of Pharmacia Biotech in Modern Medicine


Pharmacia Biotech, a name synonymous with groundbreaking advances in life science research, holds a significant place in the history of biotechnology. From its humble beginnings as a division of Pharmacia & Upjohn to its eventual acquisition by Amersham plc, its journey is marked by a relentless pursuit of innovation and the remarkable impact it had on the molecular biology landscape. In this article, we will explore the history, innovations, and impact of Pharmacia Biotech in modern medicine.

History of Pharmacia Biotech

The seeds of Pharmacia Biotech were sown in 1984 when the Swedish pharmaceutical giant, Pharmacia, established a dedicated subsidiary focusing on biotechnology. In the early years, the division mainly focused on licensing and commercializing innovative products from smaller biotech companies. However, with the rapid growth and advancements in biotechnology, Pharmacia took note of the potential for independent research and development in this field.
In 1995, a major turning point arrived when Pharmacia merged with Upjohn, forming Pharmacia & Upjohn. This merger brought together two pharmaceutical giants, creating a formidable entity with vast resources and a strengthened research arm. The subsequent years witnessed the rapid growth of Pharmacia Biotech, establishing its position as a world leader in providing cutting-edge tools and technologies for life sciences research.

Early Years and Expansion

Initially, Pharmacia Biotech focused on developing and manufacturing separation and purification systems for proteins and nucleic acids. They also ventured into the production of reagents and assays for clinical diagnostics. With their advanced technology and high-quality products, they quickly gained recognition in the scientific community, establishing a strong foothold in the market.
As the demand for their products grew, Pharmacia Biotech expanded its operations globally, with offices and facilities in Europe, North America, and Asia. This expansion allowed them to cater to the increasing needs of researchers and clinicians all around the world.

Acquisition by Amersham plc

In 2001, Pharmacia Corporation announced that it would be acquired by the UK-based biotechnology company, Amersham plc. This acquisition was a significant milestone in the history of Pharmacia Biotech, as it brought together two companies with complementary strengths and expertise. Amersham’s expertise in imaging technologies and Pharmacia Biotech’s experience in separation and purification technologies created a powerhouse in the field of life sciences research.

Innovations in Modern Medicine by Pharmacia Biotech

Pharmacia Biotech’s legacy is built on a foundation of groundbreaking innovations that revolutionized molecular biology research. Let’s take a closer look at some of their most notable contributions to modern medicine.

1. Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography (FPLC)

One of the earliest innovations by Pharmacia Biotech was the development of FPLC, a high-resolution chromatographic technique for protein purification. This technology utilizes a column packed with small beads, which enables faster flow rates and higher resolution compared to traditional methods. It also allows for the separation of proteins based on various characteristics, such as size, charge, or affinity, making it an essential tool in protein analysis and purification.

2. Biacore Technology

Biacore Technology, developed by Pharmacia Biotech, is a label-free, real-time interaction analysis system that has revolutionized the study of biomolecular interactions. This technology uses surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to measure the binding between two molecules, providing key information about the kinetics, affinity, and specificity of the interaction. Biacore technology has been widely used in drug discovery, protein engineering, and diagnostics, significantly accelerating the process of identifying potential drug targets and developing new treatments.

3. Gene Therapy

In the late 1990s, Pharmacia Biotech made significant advancements in gene therapy by developing the Gene Therapy System (GTS), a technology that enables the efficient delivery of therapeutic genes into cells. This system utilized liposomes, tiny vesicles that can carry and protect genetic material, making it possible to introduce new genes into cells without causing damage. This breakthrough paved the way for further developments in gene therapy, which has the potential to treat genetic disorders and other diseases at the genetic level.

4. Diagnostic Assays

Pharmacia Biotech’s expertise in developing diagnostic assays for clinical use has also had a significant impact on modern medicine. Their ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) kits are widely used for the detection and quantification of various biomarkers, such as hormones, antibodies, and infectious agents. These assays have played a crucial role in disease diagnosis, treatment monitoring, and research.

5. Advancements in Imaging Technologies

With Amersham’s expertise in imaging technologies, Pharmacia Biotech’s portfolio expanded to include advanced imaging systems, such as the Typhoon, a multi-mode imaging platform for proteins, nucleic acids, and cells. This technology allows for high-resolution imaging with exceptional sensitivity, providing researchers with valuable insights into biological processes and disease mechanisms.

Impact on the Medical Field

The innovations and advancements made by Pharmacia Biotech have had a profound impact on the medical field, with far-reaching implications for both research and clinical practice.

Accelerating Drug Discovery and Development

Pharmacia Biotech’s contributions to protein purification and analysis have significantly accelerated the process of drug discovery and development. With FPLC and Biacore Technology, researchers can efficiently identify and characterize potential drug targets and screen for potential therapeutic compounds. This has helped to streamline the drug development process, reducing costs and ultimately bringing new treatments to the market faster.

Improving Disease Diagnosis and Treatment Monitoring

The development of diagnostic assays by Pharmacia Biotech has revolutionized disease diagnosis and treatment monitoring. With these highly sensitive and specific assays, doctors can detect and quantify disease markers with greater accuracy, leading to earlier diagnosis and better treatment outcomes. Moreover, ongoing advancements in imaging technologies have enabled clinicians to visualize and track disease progression in real-time, providing valuable insights into disease mechanisms and improving patient care.

Advancements in Gene Therapy

Pharmacia Biotech’s involvement in gene therapy has opened up new possibilities for treating a wide range of diseases at the genetic level. This innovative approach has the potential to cure genetic disorders and offers hope for previously untreatable conditions. Furthermore, the development of GTS has made gene therapy more feasible and efficient, paving the way for future developments in this field.

Future Developments and Advancements

As a part of Amersham plc, Pharmacia Biotech continues to expand its portfolio and pursue groundbreaking innovations in life sciences research. Some areas of interest for future developments include personalized medicine, stem cell research, and advanced imaging technologies. Personalized medicine, which tailors treatments based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup, holds great promise for revolutionizing healthcare. Stem cell research, on the other hand, has the potential to treat a variety of diseases and injuries by regenerating damaged tissues and organs. Advanced imaging technologies, such as single-cell imaging and molecular imaging, will also continue to evolve, providing researchers with new tools to study biological processes and diseases in unprecedented detail.


The legacy of Pharmacia Biotech is one of relentless pursuit of innovation and a commitment to advancing life sciences research. From its humble beginnings as a division of Pharmacia & Upjohn to its current status as a leading biotechnology company, it has left an indelible mark on modern medicine. Through its groundbreaking technologies and products, Pharmacia Biotech has revolutionized the way we study and understand biology, accelerating drug discovery, improving disease diagnosis and treatment, and paving the way for future advancements in healthcare. As we continue to push the boundaries of science, we can only imagine the extraordinary developments that will emerge from the legacy of Pharmacia Biotech.


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