What Is Biotechnology?

Podcast of the Day

FutureProofing explores why emerging bio-technology will transform how we understand and control life itself.

Timandra and Leo discuss the consequences for humankind with leading genetic scientists and designers - people who are now able to create and manipulate the very building blocks of life.

The programme examines the results of inventing and editing life forms; how easy it is to become a bio-hacker; why the FBI has decided to adopt a strangely relaxed attitude towards such potentially catastrophic experimentation; and how a new understanding of biology as a software engineering system that we can design has profound consequences for the way we think about Life in future.

Listen to the FutureProofing episode on Life

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

The life sciences provide a great opportunity to improve our lives. But our newfound power in this field also gives us the means to destroy ourselves.

In 2002, Dr Eckard Wimmer and his lab at the State University of New York, published the results of a very interesting experiment.

The scientists had successfully synthesised polio from its base pairs, building it from the ground up. The result was very significant.

The good news was that the group had proved that a virus — and potentially larger organisms — could be pieced together from base chemicals. This was important not only for science, but for medicine: Wimmer and his group later used their results to offer a new method of creating vaccines.

The bad news was that this meant that, in theory, any virus could be constructed by just about anyone with the right equipment and the inclination to do so...

Continue reading Nicholas G. Evans' article: The good, the bad and the deadly: The dark side of biotechnology

Further Reading

Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products, or "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Art. 2). Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biomanufacturing, molecular engineering, etc.

For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production, and medicine. The term is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Károly Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene techniques, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Biotechnology

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

 Ageing | EnhancementThe Future | Genetics | Global Catastrophic Risks | Neuroscience

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