In 1919, Hungarian agricultural engineer Karl Ereky coined the term "biotechnology" to describe the merging of biology and technology. Ereky’s vision has been realized by thousands of companies and research institutions that are developing a growing list of biotechnology products. While the big money in biotech is in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and diagnostics, many advances are also being made to develop more-resilient crops, biofuels, biomaterials, and pollution controls.

In general, any medicine made with or derived from living organisms is considered a biotech therapy or biologics.

The industry is rapidly changing through ongoing mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and these multinational corporations are positioning themselves to capitalize on the growing health care needs of the world.

1. Johnson & Johnson

Founded in 1886 and headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is a multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices, and consumer packaged goods manufacturer. Johnson & Johnson manufactures, markets or distributes more than 172 drugs in the United States, including brands such as Tylenol, Zyrtec, Motrin, and Sudafed. The company's pharmaceutical segment focuses on immunology, neuroscience, infectious disease, and oncology.

$76.5 billion

Johnson & Johnson's reported sales in 2017.

As of 2017, the company employed 130,000 people, reported sales of $76.5 billion, and had a market capitalization of $373 billion. The company is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

2. Roche

Founded in Switzerland in 1896, Roche (NASDAQ: ROG.VX) calls itself the largest biotech company in the world, with 17 biopharmaceuticals on the market. Roche has long been at the forefront of cancer research and treatment, creating medicines for breast, skin, colon, ovarian, lung, and other cancers. It is a leader in tissue-based cancer diagnostics, diabetes management, and in-vitro diagnostics, and it has developed breakthrough treatments in ophthalmology and neuroscience. As of 2017, Roche employed 97,734 people, reported sales of CHF 53,299 ($53.4 billion), and had a market cap of $208 billion.

3. Novartis

Switzerland-based Novartis (NYSE: NVS) was founded in 1996 through a merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. Novartis focuses its business on pharmaceuticals, eye care, and generics. It is expanding its presence in the emerging markets of Asia, Africa, and Latin America where there is a high demand for medicines and health care. The company's pharmaceutical division is among the world leaders at developing and commercializing oncology, primary care, and specialty medicines. As of 2017, Novartis had over 121,000 employees worldwide, sales of $49.1 billion, and a market capitalization of $198 billion as of October 2018.

4. Pfizer

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) is a research-based global biopharmaceutical company founded in 1849 and headquartered in New York City. In 2015, the company agreed to acquire Botox maker Allergan for $160 billion in the largest inversion deal in history and the largest-ever acquisition in the health care sector. The merger created the largest biotech company in the world headquartered in Ireland, where Allergan is also headquartered. In 2017, Pfizer had revenues of $52.5 billion and a market capitalization of $256 billion as of October 2018.

5. Merck

Founded in 1891 and headquartered in New Jersey, Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) is a global company that produces prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal health products. Its core product categories include diabetes, cancer, vaccines, and hospital acute care. It specializes in creating treatments for cancer, hepatitis C, cardio-metabolic disease, antibiotic-resistant infection, and Alzheimer's disease. Merck is also investing heavily in the fight against emerging global pandemics such as Ebola. As of 2017, Merck employed 69,000 people worldwide and had sales of $40.1 billion and a market capitalization of $190 billion.

6. Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) is headquartered in California. Its primary areas of focus include HIV/AIDS, liver diseases such as hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus, and serious cardiovascular/metabolic and respiratory conditions. Gilead has produced a number of firsts, including complete treatment regimens for HIV infection in a once-daily pill and the first oral antiretroviral pill to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV in certain high-risk adults. As of 2017, Gilead employed 10,000 people worldwide, had sales of $25.7 billion, and had a market capitalization of $90 billion.

7. Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO) is a multinational biotech company headquartered in Denmark with production facilities in seven countries and affiliates or offices in 75 countries. The company's primary focus is diabetes care, hemophilia care, growth hormone therapy, and hormone replacement therapy. The company makes several drugs under various brand names including Levemir, NovoLog, Novolin R, NovoSeven, NovoEight, and Victoza. As of 2018, the company employed 42,700 people, and sales in 2017 were $16.9 billion. The company had a market capitalization of $102 billion in 2018.

8. Amgen

Headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California, Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) focuses on human therapeutics and concentrates on new medicines based on advances in cellular and molecular biology. It markets recombinant protein therapeutics in supportive cancer care, nephrology, and inflammation. Amgen also develops treatments for kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, bone disease, and other serious illnesses. As of 2017, Amgen employed over 20,000 people worldwide and had revenues of $22.8 billion and a market capitalization of $125 billion.

9. Bristol

Based in New York City, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY) manufactures prescription pharmaceuticals for treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psychiatric disorders. Some of its marketed medicines include Plavix, Abilify, and Opdivo, which treats advanced-stage cancer that has grown or spread.

Bristol-Myers Squibb was formed in 1989 with the merger of Bristol-Myers and the Squibb Corporation. M&A has led to recent company growth. Bristol-Myers Squibb acquired iPierian for $725 million in 2015 and Flexus Biosciences for $1.25 billion in 2015. As of 2017, Bristol-Myers Squibb employed 23,700 people and had sales of $20.8 billion and a market capitalization of $81.2 billion.

10. Sanofi

Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) is a French multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Paris. The company specializes in diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer health care, emerging markets, and animal health. The company has a global presence in over 100 countries including the United States, with Sanofi U.S. headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey. As of 2017, Sanofi employed 100,000 people worldwide. The company reported sales of €35,055 million euro ($40 billion) and a market capitalization of $94 billion.