What makes a flower yellow or pink? How corn stalks grow taller? Do you want to be at the forefront of developing new drugs, foods with enhanced nutrition and crops that can fight off pests? Or simply create another Dolly? Then read on…
What is Bio-Technology?
You've probably heard about a Scottish scientist cloning a sheep or about the tomatoes in your salad being genetically enhanced. Biotechnology, a combination of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering is at the centre of these and other controversial innovations. It's a research-oriented field, with applications in various areas such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and environment.
Biotechnology is interdisciplinary, covering biomedical research, microbiology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. It is the application of biology and genetics to produce substances useful to man.
Biotechnologists are involved in gene therapy, fertility control, improving food nutritional value, reducing pollution, increasing livestock productivity, the development of contraceptives, etc. Research confines a biotechnologist's main work to laboratories.
Branches in Biotechnology such as Microbiology and Biochemistry have contributed to the development of new drugs. Many biotechnology firms team up with pharmaceutical companies to investigate treatments for everything from the common cold to cancer.
Biotechnologists work in various fields. Some of these are:
Drug Discovery - These scientists employ expertise in molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, and today's hot biotechnologies like gene therapy or antigens to discover new drug molecules.
Receptor Biology - Scientists here employ knowledge of multiple disciplines like Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Bio-engineering, Molecular Biology, etc to research various exciting fields like protein engineering, drug delivery systems, etc.
Cell Biology - They carry on research in various new fields like Cell Therapy and Tissue Engineering. Cells are the engines and brains of many processes and the biologist who understands these new frontiers is a Cell Biologist.
Bio-informatics - As biotechnology or, precisely, genetics is mapping human genes, animals and plants, enormous amount of information is being generated. This information is about the nature and structure of the billions of genes that are being mapped. Bio-informatics specialists are combining knowledge of Structural Biology, Computational Chemistry, Mathematics and Information Technology to manage the huge information databases.
Bioprocess Engineering - Various products like alcohol, processed foods, vegetables, meat products, enzymes required in pharmaceutical formulations, etc. are manufactured by biological processes. There are scientists working in this area of bio-processing to solve manufacturing problems, developing new processes, and so on.
Biochemistry - Biochemists study the chemical make-up of living matter, as well as the molecular basis for the processes that occur in cells. They develop medical, agricultural, food science, pharmacological, industrial, environmental and other practical applications using their scientific expertise.
Microbiology - Microbiologists study the growth and characteristics of micro organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, moulds and parasites, as well as their interactions with the environment. They develop industrial, medical and other practical applications.
Genetics - In this field scientists conduct research into the biochemical and physiological aspects of heredity, specialising in the examination of DNA.
They often concentrate on human genetics, which involves studying the biological basis for human variation and the causes of human genetic conditions. They are also directly involved in patient care, including prenatal diagnosis for genetic diseases and genetic counselling.
Sales and Marketing - Marketing and sales of bioprocessed products need special skills. Not only marketing skills, but skills in understanding and interpreting biotechnology are also needed. There are many biotechnologists who are actually working in sales and marketing.