Biotechnology: Definition, History, Applications, Types, Branches, Current Research, and Career Opportunities

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a branch of biology in which plant, animal and microbes cells, systems and chemical structure are modified for human benefit. As the name suggests, bio means living and technology means using some processes or practices; combining biotechnology means processes and practices related to the living organisms. In biotechnology living cells of any microorganism, plant or animal are used to produce or create some specific product or modified for some special use. According to the World Health Organization modern biotechnology or gene technology which uses Recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering to achieve various purposes like making genetically modified crops and genetically modified food by altering the DNA of the microorganism. Biotechnology is not a new concept; humans are using some basic principles from the earliest of the time of biotechnology. 

In our daily life we see simple examples of biotechnology like when we make curd at home and put some amount of curd in lukewarm milk and keep it overnight to settle. The bacterias present in the curd are called lactobacillus which convert the lactose sugar present in the milk into simpler and more nutritious chemicals. That’s why it is said that curd is healthier than milk. Another daily life example we see of using simple biotechnology is making bread. When people make bread they mix some amount of yeast into the dough. Yeast is a type of microorganism that digests the sugar present into the dough producing lots of carbon dioxide gas. That’s why bread is so spongy. 

Now after the industrial revolution discovery of microscopes and other efficient instruments lead to a boom in the biotechnology sector as well. Discovery of cancer and hepatitis drugs, discovery of vaccines, discovery of chemicals like insulin, all result in the development of biotechnology and related sciences like molecular biology, chemistry, bionics, genetic engineering etc. In the present time more and more developments are happening in this field making more and more branches and advancements in them including genomics, nanotechnology and bioinformatics. In this article we are going to learn about biotechnology’s applications, new researchers, biotechnology trends, career opportunities, history of biotechnology and future. 

 

Definition of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a combined study, innovation and practice of Natural Sciences and Engineering Sciences to use microorganism and biological systems of animals and plants to benefit society in various sectors like health, agriculture, food industry, wastewater treatment and other fields. The term biotechnology was first coined by Karoly Ereky in 1919. Biotechnology mainly revolves around the application and use of biological systems and organisms like yeast plants, bacteria etc to produce substances and modify them for human use. 

There are many applications of biotechnology in fields like medicine, agriculture, vaccine development, environment science, crop development, crop improvement, dairy industry, poultry industry etc. In biotechnology the living cells are used to develop products for a variety of uses for example genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Genetically modified organisms are those when we alter or manipulate the genetic makeup of any organisms like microbes or plants to make them more useful, more potent or to gain some specific product. 

According to the study conducted by World Health organizations nutrition and food safety team the use of genetically modified organisms is increasing in food supply GM foods. WHO is assessing the risk and benefits and its implication on societies and regulatory procedures in different countries. Genetically modified organisms are beneficial in many ways such as crop improvement, development of disease resistant crops, and improvement in nutritional value of food crops etc. For example the gene was transferred in some brinjal and other crops which produces a toxin was taken from Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) bacteria using the genetical engineering branch of biotechnology. It made the brinjal and other crops disease resistant and dependent on insecticides, decreasing issues related to high amounts of insecticides in crops. 

History of biotechnology

Biotechnology is not a whole new concept. People used to use some techniques even 6000 years ago during the agricultural revolution. Around 10000 B.C.E. People used the fermentation process to digest sugar into simpler substances and make bread, ale and other food items in the fertile crescent of today’s Middle East. Around 5000 BCE Sumerians and Egyptians used the fermentation process to make bread, wine and beer. However they did not know the science behind it and the exact procedure and the chemical structure of products but they knew that something was happening when milk is converted into curd and making it more nutritious.

The development in biotechnology got a boost when Gregor Mendel, a biologist , invented the principles of heredity and genetics in the 19th century. In that time Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur discovered the microbial process of fermentation. With the  life saving antibiotic penicillin was invented by bacteriologist Alexander Fleming from a fungus. The journey of biotechnology has had ups and downs throughout history and in the last century here is a table depicting all the scientific development that occurred during the 19th century in the field of biotechnology.

Year Milestone
1919 Hungarian agronomist Karl Ereky coined the term biotechnology.
1928 Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers the antibiotic use of penicillin.
1943 Canadian scientist Oswald Theodore Avery discovers that DNA is the carrier of genes.
1953 Biologists James Watson and Francis Crick describe the double helix of DNA.
1960s Synthesis of insulin vaccines for rubella, mumps, and measles. 
1969 An enzyme is synthesized in vitro for the first time in history.
1983 The first genetically modified (transgenic) plant is presented.
1980s Synthesis of the drugs for cancer and hepatitis and the first biotech-derived vaccines.
1993 GMOs are introduced into agriculture with the FDA approval of growth hormones that produce more milk in cows.
1997 Scientists introduce the world to Dolly the sheep, the first clone of a mammal.
1998 A draft of the human genome map is created that locates more than 30,000 genes.
2010 A group of researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute creates the first synthetic cell.
2013 The first bionic eye is produced in the US, giving hope to blind people worldwide.
2020 Biotechnology innovations lead the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

 

 

 

Types of Biotechnology:- 

According to the applications of biotechnology there are multiple fields where biotechnologies principle and techniques are useful. From pharmaceuticals to biofuels, from agriculture practices to waste management and  from healthcare to weapons and warfare biotechnology has its application in almost every aspect of human life in today’s time. The various disciplines in biotechnology color coded for better human understanding of the concept. Here’s the different fields of biotechnology with the whole spectrum of colors. 

  • White or gray biotechnology: In this field of biotechnology the development of new chemicals or biofuel for vehicles and industries are produced using various techniques of biotechnology. It is mainly related to industrial processes. 
  • Dark or Black biotechnology: The use of biotechnology has increased in weaponry, bioterrorism and warfare. In today’s world using various deadly microbes weapons are created which can be lethal to the whole human civilization on earth. 
  • Violet biotechnology: The violet biotechnology is related with the laws and ethical standards with governance and regulates the field of biotechnology. In this field the practices and techniques of biotechnology are used in ethical ways without violating the basic ethical principles. 
  • Blue biotechnology: Blue biotechnology is related to the Marine and aquatic environment. In this field the production of pharmaceuticals and biofuels using aquatic creatures and microorganisms comes. 
  • Green biotechnology:  Green biotechnology covers the agriculture applications and technologies. Genetically modified organisms, best resistant crops, environment friendly agriculture practices and disease resistant animals come under this field. 
  • Yellow biotechnology: In this field genetically modified food and advancement in the fermentation process are involved. It is related to the production of alcohol bread and advancement in this field. 
  • Gold biotechnology: It is also called bioinformatics. It is a combined field of biological processes and bioinformatics. It is related to the healthcare services in which biological data of patients is gathered and analyzed  for better treatment. 
  • Orange biotechnology: Orange biotechnology includes all the information regarding all of the branches of the biotechnology. It is basically related to the scientific advancement and educational purposes of the field. 
  • Red biotechnology: It is related to healthcare. According to the biotechnology innovation organization, this branch is related to developing medicines such as antibiotics and antivirals, production of artificial organs, regenerative therapy and development of more than 250 vaccines. 
  • Brown biotechnology: The shield of biotechnology is related to soil and biodiversity. In this field application of biotechnology in proper utilization of desert and arid soil to grow highly water resistant plant species. It will increase the biodiversity and flora in deserts and arid environments. 

 

 

 

Uses and Applications of Biotechnology

After the development of genetic engineering during the 1970s, Research and advancement in biotechnology and related fields have been increasing rapidly. It opened a door to alter the genetic makeup of any microorganism for human benefit. Biotechnology is already a crucial part of our daily life. We find products and services related to biotechnology and its branches from pharmacies to supermarkets and other places. Biotechnology and related fields played a crucial role in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic and developing various medicine and vaccines along with decoding the genome sequence of coronavirus. It gave reference to how it works in our body and how it alters our genetic makeup to make it on copies and development of vaccines to eliminate it. 

 

Agriculture 

Genetically modified organisms or GMOs

Microorganisms, plants and animals whose genetic makeup have been modified by the recombinant DNA technology and other technology are called genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms are very useful and efficient. GMO crops are more tolerant or resistant to adverse conditions such as cold, salinity, heat and drought. Biotechnology and genetic engineering can develop crops resistant to pests, reducing reliance on chemical pesticides. Four example BT brinjal which has natural killer qualities for certain caterpillars. Through the genetic engineering nutritional value of various crop plants and food crops can be increased. For example, golden rice is rich in vitamin A. 

 

Alternative of conventional farming

Genetically modified crops are a good alternative to conventional farming in which the crop yield is not sufficient to fulfill increased food requirements of increasing population. Farmers can obtain much more yield from the same land with the genetically modified crops in comparison to normal crops with the minimum use of fertilizers and chemical pesticides which are very harmful for human health and environment. 

 

Medicine

In the healthcare sector the recombinant DNA technology has created a major boost in the last century. With the application of various fields of biotechnology now it is possible to produce safe and much more effective drugs and medicines on a large scale. In comparison to products isolated from non-human sources, this technology can help eliminate unwanted immunological responses in recombinant therapeutics. For example genetically engineered insulin was a great discovery of its time when diabetes was untreatable. It also has decreased the dependence on animals for natural insulin. For the treatment of Hereditary diseases a corrective gene therapy is an important biotechnological instrument. With genetic engineering and recombinant DNA technology, this method can diagnose and characterize a gene defect in a child or embryo.

Treatment of adenosine deficiency is now possible effectively thanks to gene therapy. 

Diagnosis of HIV is possible with polymers chain reaction (PCR) to easily detect mutations in jeans in suspected patients. 

CRISPR is a simple and powerful tool to edit genetic makeup of individuals. It is being used in diagnosis of a variety of diseases including single gene disorders such as hemophilia cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. 

 

 

Biotechnology current researches

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions with nanofertilizers by Christian O. Dimkpa, Christy L. Haynes and Jason C. White
  • Co-evolved gene improve the biosynthesis of secondary metabolite 
  • Classification and counting of cells in bright field microscopy images by E. K. G. D. Ferreira, G. F. Silveira
  • Genetically encoding colours and images into bio engineered microbial materials 
  • De novo reconstruction of a functional in Vivo like equine endometrium using collision based tissue engineering by Sawita Santiviparat, Theerawat Swangchan-Uthai and Theerawat Tharasanit
  • Local environment in biomolecular condensate modulates enzymatic activity across length scale 
  • Synthetic get ionic helical polypeptides for the stimulation of anti-tumor innate immune pathways in antigen presenting cells
  • Multimodel Nano immunotherapy engages neutrophils to eliminate staphylococcus aureus infection. 
  • Engineering a synthetic gene circuit for high performance inducible expression in mammalian systems by Giuliano De Carluccio, Virginia Fusco and Diego di Bernardo

 

 

 

Biotechnology Careers:-

Degree Level Duration Focus Prerequisites
Undergraduate (UG) 3-5 years Basics of biotechnology High school qualification in math, biology, chemistry, and physics
Postgraduate (PG) 1-3 years Advanced study, research skills Undergraduate degree in a biology-related field
Doctoral (PhD) Variable Research-oriented, advanced methods Master’s degree (MA or MSc)

 

 

 

Career Opportunities for Biotechnology Graduates:-

Career Opportunity Description
Animal Technician Oversees the welfare of lab animals used in scientific research.
Biotech Consultant Advises biotech company managers on product development and production efficiency.
Clinical Research Associate Supports biotech scientists by monitoring patients in experimental procedures and analyzing samples.
Chemical Operator Operates machinery at chemical plants, ensuring safety and efficiency.
Biomedical Engineer Designs medical devices and equipment to improve patient healthcare.
Biochemist Studies chemical properties of biological processes and develops products for human health.
Medical Scientist Conducts research to improve patient health and develop medical devices.
Clinical Technician Performs tests and analyzes samples in laboratory settings.
Microbiologist Studies bacteria and viruses for industrial and biomedical applications.
Process Development Scientist Supervises manufacturing processes and improves efficiency.
Biomanufacturing Specialist Ensures biotech products meet quality standards during manufacturing.
Business Development Manager Provides marketing analysis and identifies growth opportunities for biotech companies.
Product Strategist Guides companies on market positioning and product strategies.
Biopharma Sales Representative Sells pharmaceutical products to biotech clients and educates healthcare professionals.
Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Produces medications and pharmaceutical products.
Biotechnological Technician Offers technical assistance in manipulating organisms or biological components.
Epidemiologist Studies epidemics and infectious organisms to understand their causes and effects.
Medical and Clinical Lab Technologist Conducts laboratory tests and analyzes samples for medical purposes.
Bioproduction Specialist Overlooks production activities involving cell culture.
R&D Scientist Plans and implements scientific projects to discover new advancements.

 

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