The history of biotechnology could be traced back to the early last century. The word “biotechnology” was first discovered in 1919. However, this term was not common around the globe until the biotechnology industry turned from a less obscure to a fledgling industry.
You may wonder what biotechnology is? Simply speaking, it is a technology based on biological research by people in the past. Biotechnology is used to solve some real-life pivotal problems and also make useful bio-related products. Nowadays, biotechnology industries are dominated by recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering fields. Some target cells or molecules, especially microorganisms, can be easily modified and manipulated into a favourable “biological factory” of an interesting product to facilitate the production of necessities and hence improve humans' overall living standard.
Biotechnology can be classified into three main classes. Among them, medical biotechnology is the most concerned class by the public. With the fast pace of technological advancement, more people are expecting and becoming more aware of what biotechnology can contribute to our health. Medical biotechnology is primarily used for finding curing and disease prevention methods. The technique heavily involves the study of targets such as bacteria, plant and animal cells, and also the DNA genomic map of them, such that we can produce some substances such as insulin to relieve the syndromes from diabetes. As more new drugs and treatments are developed, more diseases can be cured or treated in the future. Vaccines are one example of medical biotechnology. Meanwhile, “biotech vaccines HK” has been a great search in Hong Kong recently, vaccines are attenuated versions of the pathogens, and their antigens can trigger the immune response of the human body and help the public to gain immunity against a specific disease. Under COVID-19, vaccines are indefinitely a major source of immunity for our society. The other two types of biotechnology are agricultural biotechnology and industrial biotechnology respectively, but we will cover these topics later.
Other possible applications
Instead of activating the cells or molecules into a “cell factory” as mentioned above, what can we still do with biotechnology in terms of its application? In the field of biofuels, numerous scientists are figuring out ways to genetically modify certain kinds of microbes into a type that can digest dense feedstocks to produce biofuels. This can serve as an alternative but environmentally friendly, renewable energy in a tremendous amount due to the extremely fast reproductive rate of the microbes.
Prospects of biotechnology
In a nutshell, the prospects of biotechnology can be attributed to three aspects. First of all, it can heal the world. As mentioned, the drugs produced using synthetic biotics can be delivered to the patients to cure or relieve the diseases. In the meantime, biotechnology inspires us to create more tools to detect and thus combat potential diseases. This may give rise to a longer life expectancy in the future. Secondly, by utilising the biological processes such as fermentation and catalyzation of enzymes, yeast and microbes, biofuels as alternative renewable energy could be achieved. Lastly, known as genetically-modified food (GM food), the food modified using biotechnology is usually more resistant to pests, infectious diseases and extreme climates. This can ensure the supply chain of food for the entire human population. The importance of biotechnology would emerge more and more to the water surface shortly.