Biotechnology is the business of creating commercial enterprises through the use of biology.┬á Typically, the term is used in contexts where molecular biology or genetic manipulations have been used somewhere in the process.
“Biotechnology is closely linked to the pharmaceutical, medical diagnosis as well as the agricultural sectors,” explains David Machacek, chair of the┬áSchool of Applied Science and Technology┬áat Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.┬á
According to him, biotechnology is one of the most exciting areas of rapid economic growth in Canada today. Modern advances in biology are allowing companies to create products and processes that could not even have been dreamt of a couple of decades ago.
“More and more biotechnology is being used in other fields such as materials sciences to create novel polymers or┬ábiodegradable materials.”┬á
Moreover, the field of biotechnology branches over to other professions with ease. In Canada and abroad, biotechnology is used in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, health sciences, energy, and food industry.
“Many are looking towards biotechnology for the production of novel biofuels,” says Machacek. “Today, biotechnology is being used to create solutions for better health care, securing our food supply, producing bioenergy, natural resource development, and modern manufacturing. There is an emerging field of bio-mining where genetically altered bacteria can be used to help extract minerals.”
Canada’s biotech sector has been helpful in redefining many traditional Canadian economic industries including forestry, energy, and organic chemical manufacturing.
According to Machacek, biotechnology is moving across many sectors. It is strong in adapting and presenting problems solving solutions in areas that traditionally have not used biological systems.
“One of the biggest areas of interest for biotechnology in health care is in the development of what is called personalized medicine,” he says. “The concept behind personalized medicine is that genetic information can be used to create therapies specific to an individual’s genetic make-up. The hope is that genetic screening will allow us to predict the best drug and perhaps even the best dosage for each individual.”
The bachelor of applied technology ÔÇô biotechnology┬áprogram at Fanshawe emphasizes the hands-on aspects of science.┬á
“Our students graduate with excellent lab skills, and we meet with industry representatives on a regular basis to ensure the relevancy of our curriculum,” says Machacek. “The program also has a very wide breadth and upper-year courses allow students to pick research projects based on their interests and guide their own learning.”
“Our students don’t just learn the theory, but also the practical aspects of science including lab skills, troubleshooting and problem solving. The result is well-rounded graduates who are highly employable.”