Are you an avid lover of biology? Are you naturally inclined to apply the principles of biology to create an impact on people’s lives? Well, then the Biotechnology sector is where you may find your dream job.
With the world still reeking of over 520 million deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is undeniable that the figure could have been in billions or even more had it not been for the Biotechnology sector. Almost everything starting from the diagnosis and immediate treatment to the development of vaccines brought to light the promise that Biotechnology holds as a leading technology in the modern world. To know more about the potential of Biotechnology and the facets of human lives that it is able to impact upon, read further down.
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is an industrial sector that deals with the manipulation of living organisms to create commercial products. For instance, the wealth of knowledge accumulated by cell biologists, botanists, zoologists, molecular biologists, and geneticists have been implemented by genetic engineers to manipulate information carried by the DNA in order to create transgenic animals and plants of commercial importance. Quite undoubtedly, the deepest penetrations of the biotechnology sector has been in the healthcare and agricultural markets. However, there are several other important areas where Biotechnology is making inroads with sustainable solutions. This blog highlights some fields wherein Biotechnological interventions are working wonders.
Within a few months of the detection of coronavirus, scientists mapped the entire genome of the virus and it helped to understand how the virus operates. Genome mapping being an important technique in Biotechnology, the Biotechnology sector can boast of its towering presence in global markets across the map. Also, the highly effective mRNA-based vaccine for COVID-19 was first tested in cells inside the laboratory which entails practising some basic techniques of Biotechnology. Weighing the outcomes, government organizations and pharmaceutical giants have entered into strong public-private partnerships to pool resources and fund research in the domain of vaccine development.
Next-generation computing-aided drug discovery
Advanced computing technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled Biotech companies to automate their processes and scale up operations. This handholding of technologies have enabled to reduce the cost and time required to take new drugs from bench to bedside. The ability to analyze large data sets helps medicine manufacturers to identify treatments based on the root cause of a disease. This holds immense potential to reduce the usual 90 percent failure rate for developing new drugs. Data mining from current clinical trials can also help to predict the effectiveness of treatments down to a molecular level and even predict new or different uses for an existing drug thereby reducing cost and effort of establishing new drugs.
Techniques for manipulating the information present in the DNA, known as gene editing in technical jargon, has come a long way since they were first used to make edits such as addition, deletion, silencing, or replacement of a specific gene. Precise gene editing has been made possible by the advancement of technologies such as the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 systems. Engineered nucleases called CRISPRs acting as molecular scissors have unfurled a plethora of applications in gene therapy for the treatment of many conditions including rare genetic disorders and even fatal cancers. Furthermore, gene editing has also allowed the development of improved transgenic plants and animals capable of synthesizing a variety of medically important recombinant human proteins such as Insulin.
Sequencing the entire human genome, an initiative known as the Human Genome Project, began in 1990 and was completed by 2003. This was another hallmarking achievement of Biotechnology that now allows extensive screening of patients and targeting of interventions. Improvisation of sequencing technologies have reduced the cost of genetic sequencing drastically ever since thereby making personalized gene sequencing affordable. This, in turn, has enabled the development of personalized treatment plans and targeted therapies, which are more effective than less-specific therapies because they focus on a patient’s genetic constitution. Furthermore, the falling cost of sequencing technologies has fostered the development of rapid and inexpensive methods to detect pathogens from clinical samples as well as soil samples.
Boosting agricultural yields
The global population is set to increase by 25% from 7.9 billion in 2022 to 9.7 billion in 2050. The basic need for a growing population is food, and hence its demand for feeding both people and livestock is about to increase proportionately. This automatically necessitates the use of increasing hectares of land for farming while practically cultivable land will keep on reducing as the expanding population of humans keep encroaching onto such lands. Biotechnology offers a solution to this alarming problem through the approach of gene editing. For example, crops such as wheat or corn may be engineered through the transgenic technology to grow in harsher conditions or produce more grain in a smaller area than other crop varieties while providing the same nutritional value. From another perspective, the development of biopesticides can enable protection of crops without the use of harmful chemicals thereby averting environmental damage.
Bioprinting and tissue engineering
Another promising futuristic application of Biotechnology in the medical field is 3D bioprinting, wherein bioprinters are used to develop cell-based scaffolds using a ‘bio-ink’ comprising cells and biomaterials. This empowers one to develop skin, bone, and vascular grafts from the patient’s own cells for personalized medicine. The bioprinting technology has added a major thrust to the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine by enabling the creation of autologous tissue grafts for wound healing and organ transplantation.
These trends clearly show that the demand for biotechnology is on the rise. The fact that this particular sector is being able to solve real-life problems related to human health and nutrition has catapulted it to fame. It is also quite evident that biotechnologists need more than just a background in biology, chemistry, or pharmaceutical science to build their careers upon. With innovative solutions rooted to the genetic level, biotechnology is here to stay and offer myriad career opportunities to the brightest minds!