What is Biotechnology?

lab Although biotechnology as a science has been a part of the human civilization ever since its inception, the term was officially coined in 1919 by a Hungarian engineer named Karl Ereky.

It started out as the inspiration which prompted our early ancestors to grow crops, commence animal husbandry and prepare wine, cheese and beer. Gradually there arrived a stage during the early twentieth century when biotech stood for all production which involved and was catalyzed by living organisms. At present this science is regarded as being ‘Janus-faced’, the double face is attributed to its two distinct aspects – firstly the techniques facilitating DNA and genetic movement and secondly closely studying the emerging technologies in terms of consequences.

If solely considered, biotech is a field of biology which utilizes living organisms as well as their products to transform human health and improve the human environment. Hence it is a gigantic arena within the enclosure of which one would find a wide range of procedures, some being as simple as breeding programs involving plants and animals while others involving more complicated procedures of bioengineering and genetic engineering. There is a third aspect to this field as well which entails the application of this science to the discovery of therapeutic drugs boasting of improved potency.

The current applications of biotechnology are broadly classified into four major categories – healthcare or red biotech, agriculture or green biotech, industrial or white biotech and marine and aquatic applications or blue biotech. Apart from these, active research is underway to pinpoint more promising applications of modern biotechnology in fields such as pharmacogenomics, gene therapy, genetic testing and production of drugs. The main objective of these complex applications is to detect genetic diseases like Down syndrome and Amniocentesis as well as their causes by closely studying and researching the developing fetus.

In spite of its existence and its useful harnessing by mankind, till many years biotech was limited only to certain breeding processes. It was through trial and error that many of the pharmaceutical drugs meant for treating diseases and illnesses came into being and that it was biotech which prompted their conscious development through research and diagnosis. Although still in its nascent stage, this industry is concerned with the discovery and subsequent development of biological molecules for effectively overcoming the symptoms of the particular disease. While a small molecule is given to the patient in form of a tablet, a large molecule is perpetrated through an injection.

During recent times, one of the major breakthroughs of the biotechnology industry has been the evolution of Herceptin, the first drug of its kind to receive approval for the treatment of breast cancer in women. Some of the other beneficial medical therapies include evolving and subsequently manufacturing drugs for the treatment of common medical conditions like cancer, arthritis, hemophilia, cardiovascular diseases and multiple sclerosis all of which at one point of time had been considered as invincible and intimidating.

It is biotech which is credited with the development of the synthetic humanized insulin in 1978 for treatment of diabetes. Some of its other credible uses have been the relatively cheaper production of human growth hormones, clotting factors and fertility drugs meant for overcoming the more complicated problems faced by the contemporary society.