Biotechnology- An Introduction

The term biotechnology was coined by Karl Ereky, a Hungarian engineer, 1919. The origin of biotechnology can be traced that to pre historic times when micro organism were already used for process like fermentation, foundation of yogurt and cheese from milk, vinegar from molasses. Biotechnology brought a boost in the 1970 discovery of restriction enzymes which lead to the development of the variety of gene technology and in thus considered to be the greatest scientific revolution of this century.

Biotechnology is a portmanteau of biology and technology, thus, can be defined as the use of technology to manipulate the living systems (plants, animals and micro-organism) to obtain useful products from them. It has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastics, vegetable oil, bio-fuels), and environmental uses.

Biotechnology can be broadly divided into 5 branches as follows:

1)Green Biotechnology:A biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. The most common example being plant tissue culture techniques.
2)White Biotechnology:A biotechnology applied to industrial processes.For example- designing of an organism to produce new and useful chemicals like large scale production of important enzymes by manipulating the genetic make-up of micro-organisms. It is also called as Industrial Biotechnology
3)Red Biotechnology: A biotechnology applied to medical processes.For example designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
4)Bioinformatics:It is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization as well as analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, “conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale. Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
5)Blue Biotechnology:It describes the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.

Indian Biotechnology Industry

Major milestone in Indian Biotechnology sector can be summarized as follows:

>1978: India’s first biotech firm, Biocon, was setup
>1981: Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology was setup in Hyderabad
>1984: Institute for Microbial Technology, Chandigarh was setup
>1986: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was formed
>1987: National Institute of Immunology was setup by DBT
>1989: Bangalore Genei commenced operations
>1991: National Centre for Biological Sciences pursues R&D in molecular biology
>1994: Syngene, India’s first Contract Research Organisation(CRO), starts its R&D services
>1997: Centre for Biological Technology (CBT) was established to focus on bioinformatics and genomics
>1998: Monsanto Research established an R&D centre for plant genomics
>1998: DBT approves Mahyco-Monsanto to grow Bt cotton
>2001: The drug authority implements Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines for clinical trials
>2002: Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approves Bt cotton for commercial planting
>2007: National Biotechnology Development Strategy launched
>2009: National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill 2008 to be introduced in parliament
>2011: Government approved setting up of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

Key Segments in the Indian Biotechnology Sector

1)Bio-pharmaceuticals:Bio-pharmaceutical products are therapeutic or preventative medicines that are derived from materials naturally present in living organisms, using recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology.
2)Bio-services: Bio-services mainly include clinical research and CRO along with custom manufacturing.
3)Bio-agri:Bio-agriculture is segmented into hybrid seeds, transgenic crops, bio-pesticides and biofertilizers.
4)Bio-industrial:Bio-industrial predominantly comprises enzyme manufacturing and marketing companies.
5)Bio-informatics:Bio-informatics deals with the creation and maintenance of extensive electronic databases on various biological systems; it is the smallest part of the current domestic biotechnology industry.

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