Biotechnology is everywhere: Why you want a career in it
Biotechnology means hacking nature itself so that it creates what you need. The cells that make up life are really just tiny factories, and biotechnology is us making those factories produce what we need. It sounds like something complicated, which only happens way off in laboratories. But biotechnology is everywhere, even in your own home, and it’s been around for thousands of years. By getting a career in biotechnology, you’ll be part of a long tradition of hands-on, practical science, and help advance it for future generations. Here’s where you might find biotechnology in your own home, and where you’ll find it in the future, according to BIO, Biotech Now, CPI, European Biotech Week and The Merkle.
Many of the people around you owe their lives to the science of biotechnology. Everyday medications for heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, diabetes and hepatitis all come from biotechnology, used to both to grow the materials used to make the medications, and make the conditions to create them pure and clean. If you’ve been vaccinated, that vaccine exists because of biotechnology. Even home pregnancy tests were also created with biotechnology. And there’s more to come in the future since biotechnology holds the key to finding new cures and treatments for illnesses like AIDS and cancer.
Clothing, specifically the fabrics they’re made from, are now made with biotechnology, which, for example, creates the dyes that colour fabric. Another thing biotech does is make the production of clothing better for the environment. For example, the polyester used to be made from fossil fuels, but now biotechnology has created a microbe that ferments corn sugar into a renewable version of it. Acid-washed jeans, as well, now don’t need to be washed with acid, but instead, use a biotech enzyme (a substance produced by living organisms that helps make chemical reactions).
Firstly, there’s the fuel that goes into it. Right now, it’s probably petroleum, but one day, it could be ethanol made from corn. Even if this fuel isn’t found in your car yet, biofuels can be used by industry vehicles already. On top of that, the tires your car drives on could one day be made from biotech-derived synthetic rubber. Goodyear Tire is already exploring that option.
Food and drink
This is the oldest thing on the list, as technically, cheese and bread are both the results of centuries-old biotechnology, by hacking yeast and dairy to cause them to create things we want. For the last 20 years, though, cheese has been created with Chymosin, an enzyme that naturally occurs in the stomachs of animals like cows, allowing it to be produced more efficiently. Another one of the oldest biotech processes in the world, still used today, is the fermentation of yeast to create alcohol. For example, beer is a combination of water, a starch, and a flavouring such as hops. The starch gets converted to sugar by enzymes, and then brewer’s yeast converts the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. On a more modern level, a lot of sweeteners and flavours are created by biotechnology, too, making our foods healthier than they were when these tastes were made chemically, and allowing them to be made with less salt and sugar, important for keeping us all healthy. Speaking of health, biotechnology is also gradually replacing the oils we use to cook with healthier alternatives made from canola, soybeans and sunflowers, free from the trans fats of the traditional versions.
This is another case of biotechnology creating a better way. Many cleaning products are created with fossil fuels, but these days, biotechnology is clearing the way for versions made with renewable ingredients, and in many cases, have already started. Enzymes can be used in laundry and cleaning products to remove grease and food stains, and yeast can turn sugar into chemicals that can be used in shampoo, makeup and lotions.
Sound interesting? By getting a career in Biotechnology, you’ll be on the cutting edge of this stuff, advancing it. Centennial College can help you get that career with its practical Biotechnology programs, where you learn the tools of the trade hands-on in our working laboratories, and can branch out and specialize in advanced topics. Either way, you could be a part of the next advancement that makes its way into your home.
Written By: Anthony Geremia