Products for our quality of life
In 1882, the year scienceindustries was founded, the average life expectancy in Switzerland was only around 43 years. By now this has almost doubled, to 83.7 years. Products from the chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences industries make a decisive contribution to a longer life, a rising standard of living and higher quality of life.
A hundred years ago, even a small scratch could be a death sentence: when bacteria infected the wound, spread through the body, and caused blood poisoning, there was often no cure. Inflammation caused by injuries, surgical procedures or after childbirth was life-threatening. Bacterial infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough or pneumonia also caused serious health problems and often led to death.
Remedies: lifesavers such as antibiotics and vaccinations
The development of antibiotics that target bacteria and thus enable treatment began over 100 years ago. There are now many preparations with different modes of action. The availability of antibiotics is considered by many to be the greatest medical breakthrough of modern times. Experts estimate that they help to extend our lifespan by around 23 years. Vaccinations also helped to contain infectious diseases, as currently in the fight against Covid-19.
Other groundbreaking innovations led to new classes of antiviral drugs, such as those against HIV or hepatitis C. And finally, biotechnology has enabled completely new approaches to the treatment of tumours. Thanks to intensive research in the pharmaceutical industry, the range of remedies for the benefit of patients is constantly being expanded, including for non-communicable diseases (e.g. cardiovascular, nervous system). Personalised medicine represents the next step in providing optimal, individually tailored care.
Chemical products: wide-ranging use in everyday life
Hardly any household can do without them; they come in a wide variety of forms, contribute to our comfort and help to conserve resources: adhesives. Whether as a thin strip that lets our shopping list stick to the fridge door as a reminder, a glue pencil that kids use for imaginative creations made from natural finds, glitter, cardboard or paper, a tube of specially flexible adhesion promoter that allows us to reattach the detached sole to our favourite shoe and thus extend its lifespan: adhesives are an integral part of our everyday lives.
Another example from our day-to-day lives is the smartphone: probably the most important and most commonly used “helper” consists of lots of chemical substances performing a function in the device. In addition to lithium, the battery contains numerous other chemicals. The display too, with special coatings on the surface ensuring touch screen functionality and the correct depiction of the colours requires a variety of chemical compounds.
And is there anything more pleasant than slipping into fresh laundry after a relaxing bath with soothing essential oils? A whole range of chemicals are used to ensure that baths and showers fulfil their purpose of cleaning and refreshing us. Surfactants and water provide the cleansing effect. Fragrances give us and the laundry freshness, contributing to well-being and quality of life. Of course, all these substances are thoroughly tested for their compatibility with humans and the environment. In Switzerland, the Notification Authority for Chemicals of FOEN, FOPH and SECO is the joint contact point for the notification and approval of chemicals.
Healthy nutrition and sustainable agriculture
Until the middle of the last century, healthy eating was practically a non-issue among the population. Today, consumers are increasingly well informed about how diet affects their health. There are general dietary recommendations such as the food pyramid, while at the same time, research is increasingly finding that people's response to a particular food is different and unique. This is where “precision nutrition” comes in, a new field of research that focuses on the relationship between genes and other person-specific information, nutrition and health. It has a lot of potential to achieve positive results, for example in the prevention or treatment of diseases.
Companies are conducting intensive research in this area with the aim of offering products that meet the unique needs of each individual, rather than expecting the same diet to work for everyone. Food supplements are being researched that are tailored to the very special needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women or that support adults in treating pre-diabetes. Digital platforms are also being developed that offer an assessment of one’s own health risk and offer users tailor-made recommendations for meal plans.
But there's still a lot to be done: today, more than two billion people on our planet are malnourished, nearly 800 million undernourished and over a billion overweight and obese. Sustainable agriculture is the basis for an adequate and varied diet. Industry has made decisive progress in this area: massive crop failures caused by pests and plant diseases have been contained thanks to research leading to increasingly effective crop protection products. Today, chemical plant protection products are increasingly effective, more specific and less risky. State-of-the-art devices and digital technologies allow them to be deployed in a targeted manner.
Major challenges – positive impact possible
Nowadays, more can be produced using fewer resources: production has increased by 60% since the 1960s. Innovative breeding methods are also playing an increasing role. Productive agriculture reduces CO2 emissions, water consumption and soil loss, prevents deforestation and protects biodiversity. Industry provides answers to the major challenges of our time, such as demographic developments and climate change. In conclusion, these developments benefit us personally with a healthy diet, as well as future generations thanks to an intact environment and a sustainable climate.
> Read here the editorial and prelude to the series of articles by our director Stephan Mumenthaler on the occasion of the anniversary of scienceindustries Chemie Pharma Life Sciences.