In the last decade, life science has made significant advances. Moreover, as life sciences with technology and digitization are converging, a bio revolution is emerging as a trend by inventing powerful technologies that impact our daily lives. Biotech and the biotech revolution also affect the economy, health and agriculture, consumer goods, as well as energy.
In this blog, we talk about what exactly bio revolution is, its examples, and the risks associated with the same.
Before answering that question, first, let us delve into what is biotechnology.
What is biotechnology?
According to Wikipedia, biotechnology is “the integration of natural sciences and engineering sciences to achieve the application of organisms, cells, parts thereof and molecular analogs for products and services.”
To make it simpler, biotechnology, or biotech, is a science-based and science-driven industry that uses molecular biology and living organisms for the production of health and wellness-related products.
Biotechnology companies across the world are also developing therapeutics and processes, like DNA fingerprinting. Though biotech is mostly known for its significant role in pharmaceuticals and medicine, it is also applied in other areas including genomics, the production of biofuels, and food production.
Biotechnology is majorly about understanding how a living organism functions at the molecular level, so as to combine it with various disciplines, like physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and technology.
In today’s world, biotech is making contributions towards improving the quality of life and even extending the life span of human beings. This includes developing products, providing therapy to fight diseases, using biofuel to diminish greenhouse gas emissions, and helping in generating better, higher crop yields.
The simplest example of a product of biotechnology is – bread. Baking bread includes the use of yeast (a living organism) for producing the desired product with the help of technology.
Now let us understand what is bio revolution.
What is Bio Revolution?
The global biotechnology market size was valued at USD 1,006.68 billion in 2021. By 2028, the biotech market’s revenue is expected to reach USD 2,438.90 billion at a CAGR of 15.83% . With futuristic technologies like automation and advanced data analytics, biosciences possess the capability of transforming societies and economies.
Biotech innovations around the world have become more critical as we speak. These innovations are imperative as they help solve the bigger challenges, like sustainability, climate change and risk, and feeding the planet.
According to a report by Mckinsey Global Institute, the scope of bio revolution is quite high and 60% of the inputs to the world economy are biological now or, in the future, can be produced using biological processes.
The boom in biotechnology
This Bio Revolution truly has all the potential to be transformative to economies and businesses and is already creating value in so many industries and sectors. It isn’t just disrupting value chains across industries but also creating new business opportunities.
New bioscience-based manufacturing technology is already helping in cost-cutting, enhancing performance, as well as reducing the environmental impact.
In the world of cosmetics, Amyris is making squalane – a moisturizing oil that’s used in several skin-care products – by fermenting sugar and using genetically-engineered yeast rather than using liver oil from deep-sea sharks. The latter was not just expensive but also threatened the sea species with extinction.
In the textile industry, United States-based startup Tandem Repeat is focused on producing self-repairing, recyclable, and biodegradable fabric with the help of proteins that are encoded by squid genes.
Bio revolution and the COVID-19 pandemic
The responses to SARS-CoV-2 globally illustrated huge advances in bioscience in the last few years. The discoveries and enhancements in bioscience and the changing landscape in sophisticated computing, AI, and data analytics have also helped in responding to the terrors created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists sequenced the genome of the virus in just a matter of weeks, as was the case in previous outbreaks. This surely is a witness to the new, emerging world of biology as described in this research.
The bio revolution has enabled the fast-paced introduction of vaccine clinical trials, the search for therapies, as well as a deep investigation of the transmission patterns of the virus.
Examples like these give us an understanding of the bio revolution and its advantages. However, there’s a significant risk involved, too.
Risks associated with biotechnology & the bio revolution
As awareness about digital privacy is increasing, an intense debate about privacy concerns in digital technologies has also emerged. Just as e-commerce websites track our shopping habits to understand customer behavior, in terms of bioscience, data related to our bodies and brains are collected. The European Union (EU) has taken a strict approach towards genomic data sharing, as compared to other jurisdictions, and has added a few special provisions under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
Keeping in mind the risks, genomic data needs to be handled with extra thought, sincerity, and seriousness. Scientists across the globe can’t pursue innovation in a vacuum. What’s going on in society matters, and innovators have to play an effective governance role.
In 1975, eminent medical professionals, scientists, and lawyers assembles at the Asilomar Conference in California. The conference aimed at drafting voluntary guidelines to be followed to ensure the safety of DNA technology.
Governments, businesses, and scientists need to work together
Governments that regulate new, groundbreaking biotechnology innovations as well as businesses that purchase these technologies need to, and should, be part of the sustained conversation on risk.
Regulation today is uneven and without more coordination of the mechanisms governing the use of bio innovation, there is a danger of a risk-laden race to the biological frontier. Scientific advances in some sensitive areas may be shunned by some countries but viewed as a unique competitive advantage for businesses or economies in others, with the potential commercial gains overriding the desirability of regulation for risk.
The bio revolution is gaining momentum every day, and to solve the big human logjams facing us, from climate change to food security to the health of our citizens, we truly need to capture its full potential. However, we also need to do that with care, working with everyone involved to maximize the potential of the bio revolution while managing its risks.
Governments, scientists, and businesses – all of these entities need to work together and help increase awareness. As individuals, we also need to inform ourselves and educate ourselves to understand the ways we, even if it is highly technical and complex.
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