CURRENT OPINION IN BIOTECHNOLOGY, vol.24, 2013 (SCI-Expanded)
Biotechnology uses substances, materials or extracts derived from living cells, employing 22 million Europeans in a (sic)1.5Tn endeavour, being the premier global economic growth opportunity this century. Significant advances have been made in red biotechnology using pharmaceutically and medically relevant applications, green biotechnology developing agricultural and environmental tools and white biotechnology serving industrial scale uses, frequently as process feedstocks. Red biotechnology has delivered dramatic improvements in controlling human disease, from antibiotics to overcome bacterial infections to anti-HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals such as azidothymidine (AZT), anti-malarial compounds and novel vaccines saving millions of lives. Green biotechnology has dramatically increased food production through Agrobacterium and biolistic genetic modifications for the development of 'Golden Rice', pathogen resistant crops expressing crystal toxin genes, drought resistance and cold tolerance to extend growth range. The burgeoning area of white biotechnology has delivered bio-plastics, low temperature enzyme detergents and a host of feedstock materials for industrial processes such as modified starches, without which our everyday lives would be much more complex. Biotechnological applications can bridge these categories, by modifying energy crops properties, or analysing circulating nucleic acid elements, bringing benefits for all, through increased food production, supporting climate change adaptation and the low carbon economy, or novel diagnostics impacting on personalized medicine and genetic disease. Cross-cutting technologies such as PCR, novel sequencing tools, bioinformatics, transcriptomics and epigenetics are in the vanguard of biotechnological progress leading to an ever-increasing breadth of applications. Biotechnology will deliver solutions to unimagined problems, providing food security, health and well-being to mankind for centuries to come.