Biotechnology for a layman can be understood as the use of technology in the field of Biology.
The term Biotechnology was used for the first time by Karl Erkey, a Hungarian Engineer, in 1919 and later on defined by many scientists according to their own understanding. Today it can be considered as equivalent to mobile phones – Indispensable. It is everywhere, from the growing demand of improved quality of food, beverages to medicines, curing diseases, environment, life and even handling scientific data in the form of databases. It can no longer be ignored as it holds an unprecedented potential to serve and benefit the humanity.
Using developments in various technologies, scientists have been able to use living organism (dead or live) or their products for the improvement of human health and environment. It is a combination of computers, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. The history of biotechnology as recorded on paper hails from 500 BC when the first antibiotic, moldy soybean curds, was put to use to treat boils in China, the major breakthrough came in
- 1761: Edward Jenner pioneered vaccination, pioneering a child with small pox vaccine.
- 1982: The first biotech drug, human insulin produced in genetically modified bacteria, was approved by FDA. Genentech and Eli Lilly developed the product. In 1985, genetic markers were found for Cystic fibrosis and kidney diseases followed by approval of 1st recombinant vaccine for hepatitis b in 1986
- 1988: The first genetically modified pest resistant crop BT Corn was produced
- 1997: A sheep named Dolly became the first cloned animal
- 2003: The human genome project completed sequencing of the human genome
- 2006: FDA approved the recombinant vaccine Gardasil®, the first vaccine developed against human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection implicated in cervical and throat cancers, and the first preventative cancer vaccine
- 2009: The first genetically engineered animal for production of recombinant form of human antithrombin
- Latest, more and more research is being done in this field, be it research on miniature beating hearts grown using stem cells, 3D lungs, toxin from Salmonid Fish having potential to treat Cancer and the list continues. Patents and intellectual property rights permits the scientists to protect their discoveries and also gives them a recognition in the outside world
It is a broad discipline covering various branches such as
- Green Biotechnology: Covering the agricultural processes
- Blue Biotechnology: Covering marine and aquatic application
- Red Biotechnology: Covering the medical processes
- White Biotechnology: Covering all the industrial application
- Bioinformatics: Covering the analysis and manipulation of biological data using computational tools
- The demand, growth and the potential is unbeatable. Currently, India offers numerous comparative advantages in terms of R&D facilities, knowledge, skills and cost effectiveness and hence the biotechnology industry holds immense potential to emerge as a global key player. The statistics suggests that the Indian biotech industry will grow at an average growth rate of around 30% a year and reach USD 100 Billion by 2025. More and more colleges and institutes are promoting education in this field and the Government is introducing various plans to strengthen the development and commercialization in the field of modern biology and biotechnology in India. According to the 12th Five-Year Plan the overall strategy is to accelerate the pace of research, innovation and development
- The government plans to strengthen regulatory science and infrastructure, which involves setting up the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) and a central agency for regulatory testing and certification of laboratories
- The plan also entails expanding and commissioning new bioclusters at Faridabad, Mohali Kalyani and Hyderabad
So, what’s the wait? Go ahead and explore this upcoming and promising field full of excitement.