From bio to biotechnology

August 20, 2017

Biology is a scientific branch from which emerged biotechnology, a multidisciplinary subject, which is growing fast in this modern world, having its impact on most of the activities in our day to day life. In simple terms, it is making products using living organisms. It is purely a research-oriented field, where the young minds who are interested in research can flourish. Biotechnology is a diverse field which benefits us in health, environment, industry, research, medical, agriculture and many more areas.

Although biotechnological impact was made in agricultural and industrial fields only in the early periods of the 20th century, it has its roots long back in BCs where beer, wine and bread were produced using single celled organisms via a process known as fermentation. Microorganisms were discovered later, who were the stepping stones to the modern biotechnological field. Karl Ereky, a Hungarian agricultural engineer, coined the term biotechnology. I can be a true biotechnologist only if I mention the two great names James Watson and Thomas Crick who discovered DNA in 1953, after which everyone came to know about the genetic material and how information passes at the molecular level. Later in 1970s, genes were manipulated by scientists, which led to the development of the wide area Genetic Engineering.

Green Biotechnology, Blue Biotechnology, White Biotechnology and Red Biotechnology are the fields which help us know more about the significance of biotechnology in agriculture, marine organisms, industrial products and medical processes. Improved varieties of crops are being produced which can better adapt to the existing environmental conditions. Flavr Savr tomato is a well known example. A better understanding of Blue Biotechnology helps us improve the seafood supply and safety. It is highly impossible to survive in the world without enzymes, the biological catalysts, which are produced through bioprocess technology utilising bioreactors and microorganisms. Thus, biotechnology has proved its importance in the industrial area too. In the medical field, biotechnology gains attention in gene therapy, production of humulin (recombinant insulin), recombinant vaccines etc. Drug designing and drug targeting has also gained too much interest in recent years with the advent of bioinformatics. Nanotechnology is also exploring the chances of developing and utilising nanoparticles for the benefit of mankind.

The future generation interested in this multidisciplinary field should plan a career accordingly from school days itself. It is always beneficial to opt for a biotech programme from the undergraduate level. After completing Masters in the respective branch, the young budding scientist can enter into the research field which leads to a doctoral degree that can be followed by post doctoral research. The job that can be taken up by biotechnologists is of a research scientist, and they can also be absorbed as a research associate, research assistants, laboratory technicians (food, water, environment labs, medical labs etc), teachers/lectures/professors, marketing personnel, business development officer, sales representative etc.

The door to the world of biotechnology is wide open. Let’s enter it by contributing our the knowledge we have gained, which can improve and help sustain our life on earth.

 

Akhila Rajan
Asst Professor, Dept of Biotechnology, Waljat College of Applied Sciences