Biotechnology is not all about foods only. There is much more in store for future of mankind.

Even if we may or may not like Agricultural Biotechnology which  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, and higher-yielding crops biotechnology is going to stay and grow.  

Medical Applications

    Medical applications of biotech include preventative, diagnostic, and treatment.

    Gene therapy and stem cell technologies are two up-and-coming fields within the medical area of biotech.

    Stem cell technologies include immature cells that have the potential to develop and specialize into a variety of other cell types.

Stem Cells though most controversial but  is the  latest  most promising areaDifferent chemicals can coax them to develop into different cell types.  

In 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first cloned animal created by the somatic cell nuclear transfer process.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 jointly to John B. Gurdon and  Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluri potent. “The Nobel Prize recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop. John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. (Botanist found in plants much earlier )  In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog. Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes,he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy.

_Shinya Yamanaka was able to answer this question in a scientific breakthrough more than 40 years after Gurdon´s discovery. His research concerned embryonal stem cells, i.e. pluripotent stem cells that are isolated from the embryo and cultured in the laboratory. Such stem cells were initially isolated from mice by Martin Evans (Nobel Prize 2007) and Yamanaka tried to find the genes that kept them immature. When several of these genes had been identified, he tested whether any of them could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells.

Yamanaka and his co-workers introduced these genes, in different combinations, into mature cells from connective tissue, fibroblasts, and examined the results under the microscope. They finally found a combination that worked, and the recipe was surprisingly simple. By introducing four genes together, they could reprogram their fibroblasts into immature stem cells! 

The resulting induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) could develop into mature cell types such as fibroblasts, nerve cells and gut cells. The discovery that intact, mature cells could be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells was published in 2006 and was immediately considered a major breakthrough.” (Quoted from  Press Release 2012-10-08 The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet) .

Sir John B. Gurdon was born in 1933 in Dippenhall, UK. He received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1960 and was a post doctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology. He joined Cambridge University, UK, in 1972 and has served as Professor of Cell Biology and Master of Magdalene College. Gurdon is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge.

Shinya Yamanaka was born in Osaka, Japan in1962. He obtained his MD in 1987 at Kobe University and trained as an orthopaedic surgeon before switching to basic research. Yamanaka received hisPhD at Osaka City University in 1993, after which he worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Yamanaka is currently Professor at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute.

Further reading and citations:

Yamanaka's key scientificpapers on iPS stem cells:

"Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells fromMouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors"- Cell, Volume 126,Issue 4, 663-676, 25 August 2006

"Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells fromAdult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors" - Cell, Volume 131,Issue 5, 861-872, 30 November 2007

Transgenic refers to containing genes from another source. Animals can be used as bioreactorsMany human therapeutic proteins are needed in massive quantities (>100s of kgs), so scientists create female transgenic animals to express therapeutic proteins in milk. Goats, cattle, sheep, &chickens are sources of antibodies (protective proteins that recognize& destroy foreign material)

 Forensic Applications:

DNA fingerprinting is theclassic example of a forensic application. It is used most commonly for law enforcement and crime sceneinvestigation (CSI). It was first used in 1987 toconvict a rapist in England.

Other applications of DNA fingerprinting include: 

identifying human remains

 paternity tests 

 endangered species (reduces poaching)

 epidemiology (spread of disease )

Environmental Applications

The major environmental use is for bioremediation.

 Bioremediation is the use of biotech to process or degrade a variety of natural and manmade products,especially those contributing to pollution. _There is a strong tie to microbial biotech (since many microbes are helpful for this area)._In the1970s, the first U.S. GMO patent was granted to a scientist for a strain of bacteria capable of degrading components in crude oil.

 In 1989,the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska used Pseudomonas species(oil-degrading bacteria) to clean up the spill

Therefore, cleaning up environmental hazards produced by industrial progress is a major application of this type of biotechnology.

Municipal waste-water treatment

 Biodegradation of industrial wastes

petrochemicals, bulk chemical processes



 Remediation of contaminated land in situ      

     Molecular pharming:

Molecular pharming is the use of genetically modified plants (or animals) as a source of pharmaceutical products.

These are usually recombinan tproteins with a therapeutic value.

 This is an emerging but very challenging field that requires:  manipulation (at the genetic engineering level)of protein glycosylation (addition of polysaccharide chain),•       subcellular protein targeting in plant cells.         

•       Microbes are  used to clone and produce batch amounts of important proteins

•       More than 65% of biotech companies in theU.S. are involved in pharmaceutical production (relating to drugsdeveloped for medical use).

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

•       It was the first biotech drug to be FDAapproved.

•       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


•       There are 10 top selling biotechnology drugs inthe world.






Multiple sclerosis



Gaucher’s disease

Engerix B


Hepatitis B vaccine






Red blood cell enhancement



Growth failure






Cancer&viral infections



Neutropenia reduction



Platelet enhancement