What is biotechnology?
Biotechnology at its core is the understanding and manipulation of biological systems for intended use, industrial or otherwise.
The history of biotechnology can be traced back to the times of the production of beer by the Egyptian civilization, where yeast was used in the production of fermented beverages. However, the term biotechnology didn’t come into use until the year 1919. It was coined by a Hungarian agricultural engineer, Károly Ereky. He along with Paul Berg, who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in recombinant DNA, is regarded as the founding fathers of biotechnology.
This science of understanding and effectively making changes at the cellular to the molecular level is astounding, to say the least. Many great discoveries, groundbreaking reports have been associated with this field of experimentation. All of these breakthroughs have resulted in Biotech being one of the most profitable sectors since the year 2019.
The evolution of biotechnology
In the past century alone, the evolution of biotechnology has been mind-boggling. Below is a list of discoveries that had a tremendous effect, scientifically and in life as we know it.
- 1928 – Alexander Fleming discovers the antibacterial use of penicillin.
- 1953 – x-ray diffusion images and experimentation leads to the description of the DNA double helix.
- 1978 – insulin produced in vitro, by gentech.
- 1983 – recombinant tobacco with antibiotic resistance was produced using the natural transformation prowess of B. Turingeniss.
- 1997 – dolly the sheep is cloned.
- 1998 – human genome project maps more than 28,000 genes.
- 2002 – rice has its genome decoded.
- 2003 – the human genome project completed, with all 46 chromosomes mapped.
- 16 April 2019 – scientists report the use of gene-editing tool CRISPR, in cancer research.
- 21 October 2019 – a superior gene-editing tool ‘prime editing’, is described.
- 2020 – innovations lead production of the covid19 vaccine, through the use of recombinant DNA technology.
Advancement in biotechnology and its effect on our daily life
Innovations and discoveries in the field of biotech, are embedded in our daily life. In medicine alone, products like insulin, testing kits, growth hormones, vaccines, etc., are a direct outcome of advancement in biotechnology.
Moreover, the industrial applications and research into better fuels, production processes, smart materials like self-healing concrete have spearheaded the age of scientific promise. With a robust industry comes the question of the preservation of our environment. Here too, biotechnology proves useful with innovation in bioremediation and environmental protection.
Finally, Biotech with its interdisciplinary reach has advanced industry and research to the pinnacle it is on now. Another major impact made by biotech-related research is in the food industry. The discoveries made in the field of agriculture have led to the perfection of experimental techniques like plant tissue culture and animal cell culture. Either of which can be applied to an industrial setup, aiding in creating better crops, producing seeds, seedless plants, better breeds of animals, disease resistance, etc.
Given the vastness of biotech and its applications, there is always exciting new research and innovation that comes to light every year.