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About this Article
Written by: Dennis Krouse
Written on: March 27th, 2008
Tags: biomedical engineering, health & medicine
Thumbnail by: James Gathany/Wikipedia
About the Author
In Spring 2008, Dennis Krouse was a senior studying biomedical engineering and hoping to pursue a career in the biotech industry after graduation. He developed an interest in biologics during his early biology classes.
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Volume X Issue I > Biologics: Power to the Proteins
A vaccine is made of either the whole or part of bacteria that causes a disease or virus. Thus, they come from biological organisms. Due to their living sources, the vaccines are classified by the FDA as part of a larger category known as biologics. Biologics encompass far more than vaccines and differ from traditional pharmaceuticals, in that biologics are proteins that can either trigger a similar response or directly attack the medical defect. This category includes everything from blood transfusion products to cellular and genetic therapy technology.

History of Biologics: Rural Origins of a Booming Industry

James Gathany/Wikipedia
Fig​ure 1: Standard Smallpox Vaccination.
Smallpox​ was once one of the most widespread and dangerous diseases to ever afflict humanity. Today, however, smallpox has been eradicated and is now discussed more as a potential biological weapon. This transition is important to medicine because smallpox vaccination is the first documented use of biologics [1] (Fig. 1).
The first recorded research in biologics began in the 1770's, when a doctor in rural England researched the use of viruses to prevent against related diseases. Dr. Edward Jenner exposed a test subject to the cowpox virus. After allowing the eight-year-old boy's immune system enough time to process the contaminant and build antibodies to fight it, Jenner then exposed him to smallpox. As the boy did not contract smallpox from his exposure to the virus, Jenner discovered the first use of a biologic treatment in the form of a vaccine [1].
More recently, the world of biologics has produced numerous vaccines and has expanded to include novel therapeutics to directly combat medical disorders. Founded in 1976 in San Francisco, the first modern biologics company was Genentech. This new step in biotherapeutics proved that genetically altered bacterial cells could produce the necessary proteins for biologic treatments [2].