Biotechnology : Scope and Importance
Global Impact of Biotechnology
In recent years revolution in biology has occurred due to the potential of biotechnology. Techniques have been developed to produce rare and medicinally valuable molecules, to change hereditary traits of plants and animals, to diagnose diseases to produce useful chemicals and, to clean up and restore the environment. In this way biotechnology has great impact in the fields of health, food/agriculture and environmental protection. Due to rapid development the present situation is that there is no difference between pharmaceutical firms and biotechnology industry. However, approved products in the pipeline and renewed public confidence make it one of the most promising areas of economic growth in future. India offers a huge .market for the products as well as cheap manufacturing base for export (Padh, 1996). Following are some of the areas where biotechnology has done the best.
The maximum benefits of biotechnology has been utilized by health care. Biotechnology derived proteins and polypeptides form the new class of potential drugs. For example, insulin was primarily extracted from slaughter animals. Since 1982, human insulin (Humulin®) has been produced by microorganisms in fermenters. Similarly, hepatitis B vaccines viz.,
Recombivax HB® (from Merk), Guni® (from Shantha Biotechnics Ltd, Hyderabad), Shanvac® (Biological E. Laboratory), etc. are the genetically engineered vaccines produced biotechnologically. Since 1987, the number of biotechnology derived new protein drug has surpassed the new chemical drugs (Padh, 1996).
Currently there are about 35 biotechnology derived therapeutics and vaccines approved by the USFDA alone for medical use, and more than 500 drugs and vaccines to reach in market. Similarly, about 600 biotechnology diagnostics are worldwide available in clinical practices. About 130 gene therapy protocols have been approved by the US authorities. India relies on imports of many immunodiagnostic kits.
Biotechnology is making new ground in the food/agriculture area. Current public debate about BSTC, bovine somatotropin (a hormone administered to cows to increase milk production) typifies an example of biotechnology product testing public acceptance. Similarly, the FlavrSarv™ tomato (produced by transgenic plants engineered by antisense technology to preserve flavor, texture and quality) is a new breed of value added foods. Food biotechnology offers valuable and viable alternative to food problems, and a solution to nutritionally influenced diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, etc. Biopesticides are coming to the market and their sales are increasing (see Biological Control of Plant Pathogens, Pests and Weeds). Molecular Pharming is a new concept where therapeutic drugs are produced in farm animals, for example therapeutic proteins secreted in goat milk. There are about a dozen companies that produce lactoferrin, tPA, haemoglobin, melanin and interleukins in cows, goat and pigs (Padh, 1996).
The natural biodegradability of pollutants present in environment has increased with the use of biotechnology. The bioremediation technologies have been found successful to combat with pollution problem (see Environmental biotechnology).