The current pandemic which has shattered the world in an unprecedented way and redirected the course of our lives has also reoriented our priorities. The topmost searched or trending word of the year 2020-21 on google was ‘coronavirus’. People of all walks of life were curious to know about the COVID-19: aetiology (cause), management, prevention, and therapeutics. Interestingly, family discussions on the dinner table too involved drug and vaccine development. Notably, it has also brought back the focus of the world on biology/biotechnology.

What is Biotechnology? Is Biotechnology a powerful tool to improve the quality of life?

The alliance of biology with technology has opened an exciting avenue of science with widespread applications, leaving no sphere of life untouched. Simply put, biotechnology is a branch of science that deals with the use of living cells or organisms to create improved and useful products. While most people know what biotechnology is, they have little idea how widespread its use is in our daily lives.

For instance, not many of us are aware of the fact that the bread we eat daily has enzymes that keep it soft, stable, and fresh. You would be surprised to know that biotechnology is used to improve the quality and preserve many common food items such as cheese, curd, and fruit juices.

Apart from the food we eat; the clothes we wear, the environment we live in, to improved disease diagnosis & enhanced health status, biotechnology has transformed the way we live, offering unlimited opportunities to the innovative mind. With some mind-blowing discoveries to its credit, the biotech industry is poised to grow at a rapid pace in the coming years.

Let’s take a look at how biotechnology is proving to be a boon for various industries:

Medicine

In the current time when the pandemic has turned our lives upside down, the launch of the COVID vaccine is something that the entire world has waited for with bated breath. The biotechnology industry has been at the forefront of producing effective vaccines and cures that helped people survive global health crises like the present one. The use of biotechnology in the world of medicine is not just limited to producing vaccines.

From helping us understand the genetic makeup of organisms to identify genes that cause diseases and editing them to alleviate the disease condition and developing biopharmaceuticals, biotechnology is proving to be immensely beneficial in the field of medicine. More importantly, biotechnology plays a pivotal role in disease diagnosis. The development of biosensors and molecular diagnosis methods has immensely helped in the rapid and accurate diagnosis of various infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Agriculture

With the ever-increasing population and limited available resources, the world is threatened by food scarcity. Through genetic engineering, plant DNA can be modified to yield desired results like enhanced produce, drought-resistance, pest-resistance, etc. Remarkably, the nutritive value and shelf life of the product can also be increased, thus enhancing the quality and protecting the product from damage.

Bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides are also being used to increase crop yield naturally, thus, making biotechnology the way forward to feed the world. Molecular farming is yet another interesting tool that uses plants as factories to produce desired proteins.

Dairy/Animal Biotechnology

Apart from enhancing the quality and quantity of milk, meat, and other animal products like wool produced through the use of recombinant DNA technology, therapeutic proteins/drugs can also be made to be produced in animal products.

Environment

With global warming and climate change threatening the existence of humankind, biotechnology is helping the scientific community come up with solutions to prevent the looming catastrophe. Biotechnology is playing an important role in tackling several environmental issues. It is helping the manufacturing industry produce goods more cleanly and efficiently. One of the most important applications of biotechnology is waste treatment.

Through the use of microorganisms for the biodegradation of hazardous waste, bioremediation is making the world a cleaner and greener place to live. Additionally, bioplastics and biofuels made from biological sources are proving to be viable alternatives to conventional sources.

In conclusion, it becomes imperative to reiterate that biotechnology offers innumerable applications for the ever-increasing threats to humankind, thus, offering bright prospects in India and other countries.

At the School of Biosciences, Apeejay Stya University, students are nurtured to realise their potential and explore the world of opportunities in Biotechnology by pursuing Bachelors and Masters level programmes, including a five-year Integrated (B.Tech +M.Tech) Programme in Biotechnology.

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