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    Biotechnology and genomic tools
    By Ashwani Kumar | November 1st 2012 07:59 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Ashwani

    Professor Emeritus ,Former Head of the Department of Botany, and Director Life Sciences, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. 302004, India At present...

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    Progress in developing genomic tools has been reflected in achievements in the field of biotechnology.

    Some of the tools come under category of - omics – Metabolic Pathways - Systems Biology –Epigenetics – RNAi - Paramutation - Adaptive technology; Transgenomics. 

    Biotechnology allows the transfer of a gene for a specific trait from one plant variety or species to another, is one important piece of the puzzle of sustainable development. Experts assert that biotechnology innovations will triple crop yields without requiring any additional farmland, saving valuable rain forests and animal habitats. 

    Other innovations can reduce or eliminate reliance on pesticides and herbicides that might contribute to environmental degradation. Still others can preserve precious groundsoils and water resources.

    The United Nations have projected: • World Population will increase by 25% to 7.5 billion by 2020. On an average, an additional 73 million people are added annually, of which 97% will live in the developing world. 

    Experience in the developed world with transgenics in US and Canada has been highly successful. Four crops, Maize, Soybeans, Cotton and Canola, are widely grown. Biotech crops in 2006 covered an area of 102 Million hectares in 22 countries, which is an increase up to 13% from 1996 to 2006 and this is highest adoption rate of any crop technology globally. This has led to net economic benefits cumulative to $27 billion: pesticide spraying went down by 172 Million Kg, environmental footprint of pesticide use down by 14%; GM reduction in 9.4 billion kg of CO2 emissions in 2004, equivalent removing 5 Million cars from the roads; Herbicide-Tolerance; increase in no- till; reduction in erosion, soils healthier with organic matter; less soil compaction; fuel use down by 20 gals/acre and US GM-fed steak being more eco-friendly.

    China BT rice pesticide use is down 80%: “Bt crops” fared better in field trials than those with insecticides (Marvier et al 2007). Blight-resistant potato for major potato-producing regions of the world would save be $4.3 billion. 

     Some of the Agronomic Traits getting attention include: Biotic Stress; Insect Resistance – Bt, Disease Resistance: Viral- coat protein protection (Papaya ringspot virus) ; Bacterial, Fungal, Nematode (Rice blight, rice blast); Weed- herbicide tolerance (Striga, Orobanchia) . ABiotic Stress: Drought, Cold, Heat, Poor soil; Salinity – tomatoes with transport protein; Aluminum -Citric acid . Yield: Nitrogen assimilation – nodulation by Rhizobia, GDH metabolic engineering; Starch Biosynthesis, O2 Assimilation, photosynthesis/Rubisco; PEPcase gene transfer to rice from Maize; Improving Quality Traits: Processing, post harvest loss reduction, reproduction: sex barriers, male sterility, seedless fruit. Nutrients (Nutraceuticals): Macro: Protein (Cassava-ASP), Carbohydrates, Fats, Fiber;Micro: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals; Anti-nutrients: Phytase, Toxin removal, Novel Crop Products: Proteins: nutraceuticals, therapeutics, vaccines Renewable resources: Biomass conversion and biofuel production from lignocellulosic waste using genetically engineered organisms, feedstocks, biofuels, phytoremediation. 

    Some successful applications include Bt Insect Resistance: the following crops are under commercial utilization. • Brinjal (eggplant) • Cowpea • Rice: China BT rice pesticide use down 80%: “Bt crops” fared better in field trials than those with insecticides. • Cotton : (Area of BT cotton cultivation in India has increased from around 7 million ha in 2002-2003 to around 10 million ha in 2007-2008). • Maize 

    Other traits include: • Vitamin A sorghum • Golden Rice • Fungal resistant banana 

    Some of the genomic tools over the last century developed include: Cultivation; Selective Cross breeding; Cell culture; Somaclonal variation; Embryo rescue; Mutagenesis and selection; Anther culture ; Recombinant DNA ; Marker assisted selection; -omics – Bioinformatics; Systems Biology; Epigenetics/RNAi/Paramutation; Adaptive technology/transgenomics etc. 

    Plants as Factories are becoming a reality, with respect to production of Pharmaceuticals/ Industrial products (Ventria – Rice Lactoferin Lysozyme Peru 30% Less Diarrhea, Quicker recovery 3/6 days, 1/3 less recurrence). 

    The future of biotechnology lies in refinement of genomic tools: 

    Advances in sequencing and genome analysis and in the associated information technology will accelerate the discovery and characterization of genes having potential utility.

    Microarrays representing thousands of individual genes allow very high throughput analysis of genes and gene expression patterns will facilitate identification and genetic transfer of significant traits from one crop species to the other in a regulated fashion which is major difference between conventional breeding and biotechnology.


    Very nice article.

    Gerhard Adam
    Not to be picky, but many of these numbers look to be quite old [ > 5-8 years].  Do you have any links that would demonstrate whether the trends you've highlighted have continued or changed?

    Mundus vult decipi
    Ashwani Kumar
     Thanks.  I have presented that progress of biotechnology shall depend on genomic tools and each day something new is coming. This years Nobel in Medicine and Chemistry have gone to people working with tools of biotechnology and discoveries made . I would welcome your additions to progress of genomic tools and their applications. Each area has to be dealt separately and let us see one by one what is store for future of mankind. 

    Products of Modern Biotechnology

    •       There are a wide variety of products that the biotechnology field has produced.

    •       More than 65% of biotech companies in the U.S. are involved in pharmaceutical production (relating to drugs developed for medical use).

    •       1982 - Genentech developed Humulin (humaninsulin) to treat diabetes

    •       It was the first biotech drug to be FDAapproved.

    Commercializing biomedical innovations: Commercializing biomedical research is very difficult . "Many innovative technologies and products fail to traverse the so-called Valley of Death—the funding and resource gap that currently exists between basic research and clinical development—effectively limiting the number of novel therapies, diagnostics and devices that ultimately reach patients" (Nature Biotechnology). 

    Despite of that a large number of drugs of biotechnological origin are in the market and many more coming.

    Top 10 Selling Biotech Drugs






    Multiple sclerosis



    Gaucher’s disease

    Engerix B


    Hepatitis B vaccine






    Red blood cell enhancement



    Growth failure






    Cancer&viral infections



    Neutropenia reduction



    Platelet enhancement

    •       There are more than 80 biotech drugs,vaccines, and diagnostics with more than 400 biotech medicines indevelopment targeting over 2oo diseases!

    •       Nearly 1/2 of new drugs target cancer

    Agricultural Biotechnology is estimated to be $6 billion market (2005),including applications such as:

    •        Pest-resistant plants

    •        Higher protein&vitamin content in foods

    •        Drugs developed and grown as plant products

    •        Drought-resistant, cold-tolerant, andhigher-yielding crops

    (To be continued) 

    Ashwani Kumar

    A new drug application  has been filed with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 31 May 2012. Canagliflozin—which Johnson&Johnson of New Brunswick, New Jersey, in-licensed from  Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma in Osaka, Japan—is in pole position to become the first sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2)inhibitor for regulating  type-2 diabetes.  Source: Nature biotechnology 30 (10) October  2012. This is basically plant based drug originally discovered long long time ago but Biotechnology has made it possible to improve on nature and find better alternative.