Biotechnology : A Science of Securing Future

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Biotechnology : A Science of Securing Future : : Career Biotechnology Functions

Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing sectors in India and elsewhere. This emerging field is going to take a leap forward in the next 5 Years. As per the report of NASSCOM, by 2010, biotech sector may earn upto rupee five million dollar having job opportunities for 15 lakhs qualified biotechnologists in several fields such as Agriculture, Medicine, Environment, Bioinformatics, Industries, Food Processing Units, Pharmaceuticals, Dairy and Veterinary, Biodiversity Conservation, Neuro – Science, Marine, Informatics, Teaching Training and Entrepreneurship Development in both Government and Private Sectors.

Modern science and technology alongwith research and discoveries are comfortable journeys from one revolution to the other, where the conventional technology blended with the new scientific discoveries and their fusion has been creating wonders. Biotechnology undoubtedly holds great promise for the future. Genetic Engineering, Genomics, Bio – Composting, Bio – Medical engineering. Biosensors and Bioinformatics etc, will be the hot topics decades to come. The importance of biotechnology was recognized after the establishment of National Bio – technology Board in 1982.

In 1986, the Government of India formed full – fledge department of Biotechnology (DBT) within the Ministry of Science and Technology. A number of Academic Institutions and Government Agencies such as the CSIR, ICAR, ICMR, DAE and DBT etc, are undertaking research and development activities related to it. Stupendous strides have been made in making the earth a better, place to live in, through human interference. Biotechnological innovations have been used as the means to relegate precarious predicaments.

The firmament of Biotechnology has broadened to envelope the entire earthlings in its fold. Advances in biotechnology have created a revolution in life sciences including genetics, and profoundly changes its face worldwide. Applications of Biotechnology in Human and Animal Health, Agriculture, Biomass and Green Cover, Environmental Protection and non – conventional energy sources are of great significance. The future of mankind depends on developing the basic and applied (bio) technology suited to the needs of humanity Biotechnology has provided a great opportunity for direct manipulation of gene structure, function and expression to serve the humanity and meet the growing demand of the millions.

Several policy initiatives have been taken to create excellent human resource base, build up the requisite infrastructure, identity and set up centers of excellence, support R&D and manufacturing activities to meet the demands of future and growing population. All basic economic needs can be fulfilled by application of Biotechnology as once imagined by the scientists. A wishful thinking has transformed itself to a glaring reality. Globalization is leading to intense competition with consequent higher stress levels in work places; healthcare sector is one such with a large share of global investment.

The development of new generation drugs, their targeting, recombinant vaccines and newer diagnostic tools are some of the possibilities. The development of vaccines for important diseases afflicting livestock and diagnostic kits for farm animal health care are among several activities in this sector. All the antibiotics come under biotech banner. The chemicals we use are being replaced by biochemical or other alternative biotech products. It will provide new ways of influencing raw material processing. Most of future medicines will be of biotech origin. Handling humanly impossible gene sequences have now become possible.

Cloning and designer babies may become usual features in future. In the field of Seri – biotechnology, the DBT has initiated a program in the genetic enhancement of mulberry and non – mulberry silkworm races and the host (mulberry) plants. The program includes development of immune – diagnostics tools for detection of pathogens, bio – control measures for major pests and diseases of silkworm and new races of silkworm Considerable efforts have been put in to ensure food and nutritional security through biotechnology R & D, under food biotech initiatives, ologies for scale – up of low cost nutrient foods have been standardized.

The tissue culture industry caters to horticulture and floriculture industries. The herbal medicine research has increased the level of interest in plants with potential in therapeutic benefits and commercial demands for herbal products in global markets. With increased Interests in natural, biodegradable and / or recyclable material, development has focused research into biological (botanic) or organic materials. Biological and physical scientists come together and explore such exciting areas, a concept of systems Biology. Agriculture biotech will give us plants that have disease resistance, improved yields and stress tolerance.

Environmental biotechnology will help control pollution problem. In short, biotechnology is destined to touch anything and everything of human needs. Biotechnology offers hope for solving many of the problems the world faces today. Most drugs are chemicals and have limitations in treatment, only helping managing the disease, except antibiotics. Understanding the pathways and protein chemistry at the molecular level will bring in better treatment. Understanding human genome would help us to predict the likelihood of diseases and improve disease diagnosis systems. With increased interests in natural, biodegradable and / or recyclable materials, developments have focused research into biological or organic materials. Biological, physical and other scientists come together and explore such exciting areas.

Biotechnology is interdisciplinary, offering flexible eligibility criteria at the entry level. It encourages Systems Biology that provides a common platform for applied areas of many fields of sciences such as chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry and chemical engineering among many other, having many branches of application in healthcare, agriculture, food processing, environmental and industrial facets as discussed earlier. Demand for a trained biotechnologist in these areas is high. To explore these, specialists in law, engineering, computer science and others as support system is highly desirable. With increased use of biotech products and genetically engineered organisms bio – safety has been one of the man concerns, amongst the many social, ethical and legal issues.

Guidelines in line with this are strictly being followed / imposed to prevent damage to human health and environment. A single window – processing cell has been created in the DBT for speedy processing of approvals for bio – safety. The DBT has a strong focus now on the R&D activities. It interfaces with a number or other government departments, academic and R&D institutions, and other user agencies. It supports Post Graduate Programs with focus on biotechnology in over 60 Universities, IITs and other premier institutions across the country, in collaboration with the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Also, there are doctoral and post-doctoral courses as well as regular short – term courses or training Programs for mid – career scientists. In order to encourage researchers for R&D towards products and processes, DBT has instituted number of awards, major thrust being in Genomics and Proteomics research. In terms of global industrial growth, biotech at present is referred as the sunrise sector. Now, the next likely concern is where to groom oneself to match to such global requirements? Virtually every Indian university is engaged in biotech research in some form or the other and various courses of biotech are offered at many centres of repute.

Today, there are over 150 modem biotech companies in India. Some of these have pursued a product based business, model; others have adopted a service model in line with the IT sector. India’s major strength in biotechnology is its highly trained workforce, a very good infrastructure base with a well – networked chain of laboratories and clusters of bio – resource – based industries. Added to these, the treasure of our biological diversity and the very rich traditional knowledge base (the concept of ITK, i.e indigenous technical knowledge) dating back to thousands of Years. These put together are, by any standard, very formidable assets. The fruits of these efforts would hopefully become visible sooner or later.