Biotechnology is a massive industrial sector. In the U.S. alone, biotechnology’s market share was estimated at $108 billion in 2020. Globally, the biotechnology market size was estimated at $752.88 billion in 2020.
Biotechnological development on its own is a large industry, but its primary use is as a supportive feature within other industries. Biotechnology isn’t just a single type of technology; it’s a term for a wide variety of technologies and industrial processes that rely on combining technology and biological material.
The simplest definition of biotechnology is any technology that is based on biological processes. This can include genetic engineering, gene splicing, DNA sequencing, and more.
However, this is a very broad definition. In reality, biotechnology is vast and complicated, and the term has different nuances based on which industry is using it.
Biotechnology is used by industries and is also its own industry. Advances in biotechnology harness cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products in any number of industries.
Biotechnology takes many forms across many industries, so it can be hard to define it exactly. But one thing that all examples of biotechnology have in common is that they find an innovative solution or answer to a problem or situation.
Examples of Biotechnology
Biotechnology plays a massive role in your daily life, even if you aren’t aware of it. One of the oldest examples of biotechnology is fermentation, which is responsible for making food products like cheese and beer.
Selective breeding is one of the earliest examples of biotechnology practiced by humans; if you’re a dog owner, you have biotechnology to thank!
In agricultural practice, selective breeding can lead to specific food types as farmers select the best parent plants with desirable traits to reproduce. These traits could include sweeter fruit, larger yields, and easily dispersed seeds.
Early medical biotechnology examples include culturing viruses and bacteria to make vaccines and medications like penicillin.
However, when people talk about modern biotechnology, they are not referring to these older processes. Today, biotechnology means something a bit more specific.
The term biotechnology was first widely applied to molecular and cellular technologies that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. The biotechnology industry began with pharmaceutical research.
Early companies created genetically engineered substances primarily for medical and environmental uses.
These companies relied on recombinant DNA technology, which allows genes from one species to be spliced into another. This means that genetically engineered microorganisms that have a quick rate of replication, like yeast and bacteria, can be used to make materials with higher scarcity.
They can quickly provide research and working material. Gene splicing can also be used to add traits to an existing organism.
For example, golden rice is a highly successful genetic engineering project that introduced beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, to rice.
When propagated and eaten, this rice can help control Vitamin A deficiency, a condition that can lead to blindness and other eye problems, as well as increased childhood mortality.
Another example of biotechnology that many people are familiar with is gene therapy. Genome editing is one method practiced in modern times in which existing DNA is edited.
This can help fight diseases by turning off potentially damaging genes. This is a promising treatment for many types of cancer and may even lead to vaccines and better-targeted drugs for certain gene-related cancers.
Vaccines are often at the forefront of biotechnology development in the medical field. mRNA vaccines are another important and popular innovation.
The COVID-19 vaccines were first developed using mRNA technology; the rollout and overall success have demonstrated that this type of genetic research is an excellent base for scientists to start from when conducting other types of vaccine research.
Because biotechnology is such a broad field, different aspects are broken into color-coded categories when discussing these technologies and the research that incorporates them. The four main categories are white, red, green, and blue biotechnology.
Arguably the largest area of biotechnology, white biotechnology is industrial. It revolves primarily around the use of biocatalysts for the industrial-scale production and processing of products.
Red biotechnology focuses on medicine and human health. It is also referred to as biopharmaceuticals, but it is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry. Red biotechnology covers all applications of biotechnology to human health.
Green biotechnology deals with agriculture. It plays an important role in increasing food production and in developing more environmentally friendly fertilizers and pesticides.
Fewer people think of marine biotechnology when they think about biotech at all, but the vast majority of the earth’s biodiversity is found in the ocean. Blue biotechnology aims to use this to develop new products to benefit both society and the environment.
While the four categories mentioned above are the best-established, other areas also have assigned colors.
- Brown: Use of and management of desert land
- Dark: Biological weapons and bioterrorism
- Gold: Bioinformatics
- Gray: Environmental preservation and pollution cleanup
- Violet: Related to the law and patents around biotechnology
- Yellow: Improved nutrition
What Fields Use Biotechnology?
Virtually every field of life science uses some kind of biotechnology. Here are just a few of the most common.
Biomedical engineering: Combination of engineering principles with biotechnology to design and produce medical devices and equipment like advanced prosthetics
Clinical Technology: Development and improved performance of clinical tests for blood and tissue, diagnostic development
Food Science: Development of consumer food products and food production technologies
Industrial Processing: Processing and production of industrial chemicals, including chemicals used in pulp and paper, textiles, energy, material science, and polymer science
Manufacturing: Reduction of carbon output, contaminants, and other pollutants that are byproducts of the production of products like fuel
Medicine: Gene therapy, gene editing, live cell culture, personalized medicine, and pharmacogenomics
Pharmacy: Vaccine development, biologic medicine development (medicine developed from living cells, like insulin), biopharmaceuticals, rapid deployment of medical interventions
Urban Planning: Collaboration between engineers and biotechnical professionals to create and expand infrastructure in environmentally safe ways, development of sustainable technologies that allow businesses to focus on ecologically sound growth
Why Is Biotechnology Important?
One of the biggest takeaways from the development of the COVID-19 vaccine is that rapid scientific advancement saves lives. Biotechnology like the vaccine and many other technologies in the medical field have prevented, cured, and aided in the recovery of multiple illnesses and other health problems.
With such a strong resume of helping humanity overcome disease, it’s hard to claim that biotechnology isn’t important.
Do You Work In Biotechnology?
Today’s biotechnology industry requires substantial laboratory space. With the growing demand for life science laboratories, many biotechnology researchers and innovators will find themselves in labs to work on their projects.
If you are looking to renovate, upgrade, or even furnish a newly developed laboratory, you will have many options to consider. From structural choices to safety components to furnishings to basic equipment to get you started, there will be much to find.
However, you don’t have to navigate this alone.
OnePointe Solutions offers lab design teams who specialize in consultation for these decisions. With years of lab-building experience across multiple industries, your project will be in good hands.