Biotechnology is a science that utilises living organisms to produce therapeutic drugs, diagnostics products and many other other products that greatly benefit society. Analysts have predicted that biotechnology will become one of the most important applied sciences in the 21st century
Biotechnology has many applications in health. Many therapeutics proteins are too complex to synthesize and so need to be manufactured in living cells such as bacterial, yeast and mammalian cells. These cells are often genetically manipulated to produce useful medicines.
Biotechnology has led to the development of numerous antibiotics for the treatment of different infections and also to the development of a number of vaccines for the prevention of many diseases.
Another important health application is in genetic testing. An individuals DNA may be screened to determine the presence of any mutated sequences that could indicate a risk of certain cancers or the on-set of certain adult diseases. Genetic testing is widely used in pre-natal screening and is also used in the forensic science industry.
Biotechnology is used in agriculture to improve crop yield and to make crops more robust to environmental stress making them resistant to insects that damage and lower crop yield. Crops are engineered to make them naturally resistant to environmental pests which in turn benefits the environment with the use of less pesticides and herbicides.
Biotechnology can also improve the nutritional value of food and improve it’s appearance and taste.
Biotechnology uses microorganisms to clear up many contaminated environments such as oil spillages at sea and is widely used in the treatment of sewage. The microorganisms metabolize contaminants to produce harmless by-products.
An example is the designing of an organism to produce useful chemicals. Another example is the use of enzymes in industrial applications i.e. biological washing powders or to produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals.
Biotechnology is important in the production of biodegradable plastics and in the production of bio-fuels.
The biotechnology sector provides a great variety of career opportunities to qualified scientists. Most graduates enter the sector after completing a relevant life science degree.