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Biotechnology : an introduction

From the first breweries to today’s CAR-T therapy, the field of Biotechnology has grown to encompass molecular biotechnology, bio-process technology and environmental biotechnology. In order to understand which products and technologies are currently being developed, it is crucial that one understands the basics of cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry.

Cell biology is the science of the cells. Robert Hooke was the first person to ever observe the structure of a cell, in the late 17th century, by looking at a sliver of cork. Ten years later, Van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to observe a living cell under the microscope. Today, we know that most of the organic world is made up of cells. Their diversity is enormous, as are the functions they are carrying on. A human being is comprised of thousands of billions of cells. That is, way more than they are galaxies in the universe… truly fascinating.

Molecular biology is the science of DNA. Watson and Crick were the first to establish the 3D form of the molecule in the 1950s, and they received the Nobel prize for it! In fact, the first observations of DNA were made by Rosalind Franklin, using X-ray crystallography. In recent years, this science has shown that there are many possible applications in medicine using ribonucleic acids.

Biochemistry is a science at the boundary of chemistry and biology. One can say that biology starts were chemistry ends in the ascending scale of observable things. Biochemistry largely refers to the study of metabolisms and of the “molecules of Life” such as proteins. We are still unsure of the function of many of them. Today, many biochemists work on finding new cures for diseases.

Companies around the world are trying to use all the new information that recent advancements in this exciting field have given us. The road to applications for human health and the environment is often treacherous, and sometimes technology can be a threat. But used wisely, there is a lot to gain for people and the planet!

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