Biotechnology refers to the naturalistic knowledge of the whole of humanity. Knowledge then put into practice thanks to the evolution, over millennia and centuries, of science and technology. There are two historical uses: nutrition and health care.
But research has come a long way and, today, the fields of application are many with a number of biotech companies significantly increased over the last decade.
What Are Biotechnologies
The term “biotechnology” sees the union of the nouns “biology” and “technology”, where the first designates the study and knowledge (logos) of living beings (bios) and the second (technè) the application and use of technical tools.
It appears for the first time in a textbook in 1917 by the hand of a Hungarian engineer who uses it without awareness of its meaning, as, at the time, it was a neologism referring to the processing of some agricultural products.
Among the first official definitions of “biotechnology”, that of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) in 1982, which refers to the integrated use of microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and chemical engineering in order to obtain applications of microorganisms and of other cellular systems for the production of compounds of various interest or for clinical therapies Among the many subsequent definitions, the most modern and complete, today, is that contained in the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD Convention on Biological Diversity an international treaty adopted in Nairobi in 1992 and opened for signature by the countries in the same year, during the Summit. World Heads of State of Rio de Janeiro. According to this definition, biotechnology or, in the plural, biotechnologies, to indicate the plurality of technologies developed and the related fields of application is: the technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or their derivatives, to produce or modify products or processes for a specific purpose.
Among the first official definitions of biotechnology that of the European Federation of Biotechnology, which refers to the integrated use of microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and chemical engineering.
Biotechnology – Traditional and Innovative Researches
The achievements of biology in DNA research and the successes of genetic engineering lead to a distinction between traditional (or conventional) biotechnology and innovative (or advanced) biotechnology The distinction, more than in relation to the past present logic, is linked to the fact that traditional biotechnologies mainly focus on discoveries, while innovative biotechnologies concern inventions, creations of tools and objects that did not exist previously.
Traditional biotechnologies include all those production technologies used for millennia and refer, in particular, to the use of living organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, plant or animal cells. Examples of traditional biotechnology are milk transformed into cheese and grape juice transformed into wine, to name a few. But their use dates back to when there was no knowledge of either biology, much less biotechnology.
Other examples of traditional biotechnology are the production of the first alcoholic drinks in 6000 BC, the production of bread and beer in 4000 BC, and the production of cheese and yogurt in 3000 BC. And the list goes on.
It will be necessary to reach the mid-nineteenth century, when the French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur understood the cause of fermentation, identifying the bacteria and yeasts responsible for some processes in the transformation of food substances, to arrive at the standardized methodological production of beer, wine, vinegar.
The advanced biotechnology however, are based on modern discoveries of genetic engineering and molecular biology. According to the OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development their vast range of applications can be traced back to four macro areas:
- pharmacology, medicine and diagnostics
- agriculture, veterinary and animal husbandry
Innovative Biotechnologies: Application Sectors
If it is true that the OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in terms of innovative biotechnologies, distinguishes four macro areas (pharmacology, medicine and diagnostics; agriculture, veterinary and zootechnics; bioindustry and environment), it is equally true that the applications of biotechnology are manifold, so much so that each sector has sub-branches and more than one variation. Here, then, is a summary of all the branches of innovative biotechnology.
Medical biotechnologies represent that branch of biotechnology dedicated to the discovery and development of active ingredients the production of vaccines and the development of new techniques for analyzing and diagnosing diseases and related gene and cell therapies. More specifically, they see the application of biochemistry, microbiology and genetic engineering for the production of goods and services in the medical-pharmaceutical field, for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
In particular, in the diagnostic field, in recent years thanks to the progress of genetic engineering biotechnologies have achieved important goals, contributing to an increasingly early and specific diagnosis which has become of fundamental importance for every type of pathology, but above all for those complex, for chronic diseases and cancer the onset of which is not necessarily attributable to a single trigger, but is due to the delicate combination of environmental and genetic factors.
The application of biotechnologies in diagnostics is, therefore, leading to the development of increasingly accurate and less invasive methods for the identification of a particular pathological state, increasingly orienting towards predictive and personalized medicine. The goal is a more precise definition of the diagnosis, thus having the possibility of implementing targeted, ad hoc medical treatments.