Illustration of a DNA strand in shades of green representing biotechnology.

Any technology that is based on biology could be considered biotechnology.

Though it may feel like a modern concept, biotechnology has been around for thousands of years. The earliest farmers bred crops and produced food through biotechnology. Today, biotechnology helps treat diseases, expands agricultural capabilities and improves manufacturing processes.

What is Biotech?

The term “biotechnology” was coined in 1919 by Hungarian agricultural engineer Karl Ereky to describe how biology could help turn raw materials into useful products. His intent was to describe a discipline that merged biology and technology.

Recent advances in biotech are helping to develop products that address some of society’s most pressing challenges. These challenges fall into three categories, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

1.    Heal the World

By harnessing nature’s toolbox and using people’s genetic makeup, biotech is helping to heal the world by:

  • Reducing rates of infectious disease
  • Aiding in the decline of infant mortality rates
  • Decreasing the odds of serious, life-threatening conditions
  • Tailoring treatments to individuals, minimizing health risks and side effects
  • Creating more precise tools to detect diseases
  • Combating serious illnesses that confront the developing world

2.    Fuel the World

By using biological processes like fermentation in conjunction with biocatalysts such as enzymes, biotechnology is helping to develop microscopic manufacturing plants that will improve the world by:

  • Streamlining the steps in chemical manufacturing processes by at least 80 percent
  • Lowering the temperature for cleaning clothes, potentially saving $4.1 billion annually
  • Improving manufacturing process efficiency to save at least 50 percent on operating costs
  • Reducing the use of and reliance on petrochemicals
  • Using biofuels to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 52 percent
  • Tapping into the full potential of traditional biomass waste products

3.    Feed the World

By improving crop resistance to insects, enhancing crop herbicide tolerance and facilitating the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices, biotech is helping to feed the world by:

  • Generating higher crop yields that require less tilling
  • Lowering volumes of agricultural chemicals required by crops
  • Creating crops that need fewer pesticide applications
  • Developing crops with enhanced nutrition profiles that solve vitamin and nutrient deficiencies
  • Producing foods free of allergens and toxins such as mycotoxin
  • Improving food and crop oil content to help improve cardiovascular health

Biotechnology in Medicine

Biotech medicines are large molecules similar or identical to the proteins and other complex substances that the body relies on to stay healthy. Too large and intricate to be formed by chemistry alone, they are made using living factories — microbes or cell lines — that are genetically modified to produce the desired molecule.

Amgen, an American bio-pharmaceutical company, notes that biotech medicines must be injected or infused into the body to avoid breaking down during the digestive process. In general, any medicine made or derived from living organisms is considered a biotech therapy, or biologic.

Some therapies, like insulin and certain vaccines, have been in use for many decades. More recent examples include cancer-fighting virotherapy, which have demonstrated promising efficacy in early clinical trials. It is one of many innovations in biotechnology.

Innovate and Change the World

The biotechnology field continues to grow, and there’s never been a better time to join this industry.

If you’re ready to become a biotechnology leader, then you should apply for Husson University’s fully online MBA in Biotechnology and Innovation. You’ll learn the critical skills to help existing biotech firms gain greater market share. You’ll also learn how to launch and run a biotech startup. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a visionary leader, you’ll learn from experienced professors who have your success in mind. Husson University also offers small class sizes and a flexible online schedule that will allow you to balance your studies with your busy life.