This note offers a layman's account of the basics of what biotechnology is and the nature of competition facing therapeutic (drug) biotechnology firms. An overview of the various stages of the R&D process that firms undertake to obtain regulatory approval for the marketing of a drug is provided. A table summarises the time, cost, and probabilities of success at each stage of the process. The relationship between small entrepreneurial biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical firms is explored. Insights are offered into the financial health, strategy and R&D portfolios of eight biotechnology firms listed on the London Stock Exchange. These firms are British Biotech, Cantab, Celltech, Chiroscience, Oxford Molecular, Proteus International, Peptide Therapeutics and Scotia Holdings. Tables are provided detailing their performance on the LSE, R&D and alliance portfolios and cash positions. This note may be used as a companion to 'The Rejuvenation of Celltech in the 1990s' (300- 072-1).