BIOTECHNOLOGY - THE NEW WORLD
Imagine a microorganism
that will clean up ocean oil spills, a new antibiotic that
can be quickly altered to combat drug-resistant strains of
bacteria, or a cancer vaccine that will help prolong human
life. This is biotechnology.
Biotechnology uses biological systems, such
as bacteria, to create goods and services. And while it's
been around for thousands of years - the use of yeast in the
making of cheese, bread and beer is biotechnology - our growing
understanding of DNA, the basic genetic material of living
organisms, has ushered this technology into an era of new
Canada is a world leader in biotech products.
From Frederick Banting and Charles Bests' discovery of life-saving
insulin in 1921, to the development of 3TC, an anti-viral
drug effectively used to prolong the life of people infected
with the AIDS virus, in 1997, Canadians have made headlines
with their biotech discoveries.
The use of a biological science to create a
new product was revolutionized in the 1940s and '50s with
the discovery of the role and structure of the DNA molecule.
Today, the technology breaks down into six areas:
- Genetic Engineering - Selective breeding
and the manipulation of genes to change the characteristics
of an organism
- Cell Culture Technology - Growing animal
and plant cells in a lab, using cultured cells as production
- Cell Fusion Technology - Fusing cells using
chemicals or electric shock to create hybrids, and using
artificial cells as delivery mechanisms for new drugs and
- Enzyme Technology - The use of enzymes,
(enzyme proteins control all of the chemical reactions that
make up life) to bio-convert, degrade or synthesize materials
- Fermentation Technology - The ability to
grow cells in very large quantities
- Immobilization Technology - The ability
to attach cells, enzymes and DNA to solid, inorganic surfaces.