Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products or any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. 2). Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering, biomedical engineering, bio-manufacturing, molecular engineering, etc.

For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine. The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.

The Pharmaceutical industry discovers, develops, produces, and markets drugs or pharmaceutical drugs for use as medications. Pharmaceutical companies may deal in generic or brand medications and medical devices. They are subject to a variety of laws and regulations that govern the patenting, testing, safety, efficacy and marketing of drugs.

The modern pharmaceutical industry traces its roots to two sources. The first of these were local apothecaries that expanded from their traditional role distributing botanical drugs such as morphine and quinine to wholesale manufacture in the mid 1800s. Rational drug discovery from plants started particularly with the isolation of morphine, analgesic and sleep-inducing agent from opium, by the German apothecary assistant Friedrich Sertürner, who named the compound after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus. Multinational corporations including Merck, Hoffman-La Roche, Burroughs-Wellcome (now part of Glaxo Smith Kline), Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Upjohn (now part of Pfizer) began as local apothecary shops in the mid-1800s. By the late 1880s, German dye manufacturers had perfected the purification of individual organic compounds from coal tar and other mineral sources and had also established rudimentary methods in organic chemical synthesis. The development of synthetic chemical methods allowed scientists to systematically vary the structure of chemical substances, and growth in the emerging science of pharmacology expanded their ability to evaluate the biological effects of these structural changes.

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