Biotech: Optmism High, But Still Some Risks
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Biotech: Optmism High, But Still Some Risks

Although nearly 80 percent of American consumers can’t name a single biotechnology company or product, the same number believe biotechnology will treat cancer, and be the primary source of new medicines during the next 20 years.

Paul Holmes

Although nearly 80 percent of American consumers can’t name a single biotechnology company or product, the same number believe biotechnology will treat cancer, replace or repair damaged tissue and be the primary source of new medicines during the next 20 years, according to a survey conducted by KRC Research, a division of Weber Shandwick.

“The American public has great faith in science, and they’re open to biotechnology as an extension of that faith,” says Weber Shandwick chairman Jack Leslie. “As our study found, most consumers are not familiar with biotech companies or products yet one in two believe biotech will make major medical and health science breakthroughs.”

According to Leslie, “The challenge we face is that despite great visibility over the past few years, people’s understanding of biotechnology remains low. We’ve seen lots of stories about biotechnology—in science, in business and even in national security—but, generally speaking, there’s a blank slate. The danger is that when you have a vacuum of knowledge, anything can fill it—including fear, innuendo and misinformation—making it much harder to communicate the real facts.

“This can be a watershed moment for biotech companies, as there’s an opportunity to build greater understanding of, and trust in, biotechnology among a public that intuitively recognizes the benefits these breakthrough products will bring to our lives.”
· Among the findings:
Approximately eight out of 10 consumers surveyed believe that biotechnology is somewhat likely, with about half saying very likely, to provide ways to repair human tissue, lead to treatments for cancer, and be the most important source of new medicines during the next 20 years.
· The public knows very little about the biotechnology industry. Four out of five consumers (82 percent) cannot name a company they would consider part of the biotechnology industry, and 80 percent cannot name a product created through biotechnology.
· A majority of consumers (58 percent) say they are not comfortable or familiar with the word “biotechnology;” a majority of Washington Insiders (66 percent) say they are.
· Half of both consumers (49 percent) and Washington Insiders (46 percent) say they have at least some concerns about biotechnology. While consumers are more likely to express strong concerns than Washington Insiders (20 percent compared to 7 percent), they are also more likely to say they have no real concerns (24 percent compared to 7 percent).
· Biotechnology is not a familiar part of consumers’ lives. Fewer than half of both the public and Washington Insiders think they have used a product created through biotechnology. The difference between consumers and Washington Insiders is that consumers do not think they have used a biotech product, while Washington Insiders are not sure.
· One in five consumers (20 percent) think they have used a product created through biotechnology, while more than twice as many (49 percent) do not believe that they have.
· One in three (37 percent) Washington Insiders believe they have used a product created through biotechnology, while nearly half are unsure (47 percent) and one in five (16 percent) do not believe that they have ever used a product created by biotechnology.

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