What are biologics?

A biologic is a drug that is derived from living cells. Vaccines, insulin and monoclonal antibodies are examples of biologics. They often have large, complex molecular structures. Due to the complexity in manufacturing biologics from living cells, they tend to be higher in cost and are relatively difficult to replicate precisely in comparison to conventional (“small molecule”) drugs, which are composed of simple chemical structures. Biologics are generally administered by injection, subcutaneously or intravenously.

Biologic medications currently approved for treatment of Crohn’s and colitis in Canada have been developed to target specific molecules within the inflammatory processes in order to control inflammation.

Biologics may target different parts of immune responses in controlling inflammation, such as mop up some of the inflammatory signals or stop some cells from travelling to the areas of inflammation in the gut, thereby allowing the gut to heal.

Anti-TNF Biologics

One of the signals involved in causing inflammation in people with Crohn’s and colitis is called tumour necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-alpha. Biologic medications that block those signals are known (not surprisingly) as anti- TNF biologics.


α β Integrin Blockers Biologics or selective adhesion molecule inhibitors (SAM)

These biologic medications attempt to block the movement of some inflammatory cells to areas of inflammation in the gut, allowing time for the gut to heal.

For more information, please read our brochure on biologic therapy.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 150 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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