Biotechnology 101: What You Should Know

Recently with Malaysia making a big deal about Biotechnology and after reading some sites it has suddenly come to my attention that a lot of people out there don’t really know what biotechnology is all about. After all, the first few times I mentioned it in a conversation with people, I am first greeted blank stares followed by this line.

“That’s like an engineering field right?”

It gets pretty hard from there on end to explain to people what biotechnology is all about because it’s just so BIG a field. From my perspective and what I intend to do at least, it’s just a small fraction to what biotechnology is all about. A lot of it has to do with scientific research…which is basically what i love to begin with. As I have always said regarding biotech.

It’s all about playing God and getting paid.

So given that many of you might still be clueless and influenced by the general media on what biotechnology is all about. Let me give you a rough low down of what we can and cannot do in our department:

What We Do:

  1. Cancer research. That’s a big no brainer here on what this is and what it means.
  2. Tissue engineering for organ replacement such as skin and possibly hearts, livers and other major organs in the near future WITHOUT organ rejection.
  3. Assisted Reproductive Technology which basically means things like in-vitro fertilisation and anything other similar methods for you to have a child.
  4. Production of human theraputics from other organisms which answers your question like…”where do diabetics get their insulin from?
  5. Genetically modified foods which has been something we have already been doing for centuries just a little faster until a microscope.
  6. Bacteriological, virological and mycological research. Basically…bacteria, viruses and funguses. Breaking them down to try find ways of making better vaccines and medicines against them. Guess what…we can make them clean up oil spills as well.
  7. Forensics. Fight crime and protect the innocent all from the safety of your own DNA lab.
  8. Gene therapy. Unfortunate enough to have a genetic disease, this is where we give some hope of taking that all away…permanently.

What We Do Not Do:

  1. Create an army of super mutants to take over the world or horrible genetic experiments which leave an entire military research facility dead except for a disillusioned soldier and a beautiful researcher.
  2. Clean your house, shines your car, changes your baby’s diaper and feeds the dog…all while you sleep.
  3. Use the force or duel people with lightsabers.
  4. Have a hunched back, an evil twitch in the eye and a maniacal laughter.
  5. Bring the dead back to life or create soulless bodies.
  6. Perform blesphamous magic that defies the Gods.
  7. Chase after criminals with a gun or by interviewing them personally at the crime scene.

Basically that’s the low down of what is somewhat expected of Malaysia should it really be willing to join other countries in building a biotechnological empire. The only misgivings I have is whether or not Malaysia IS ready for biotechnology to begin with. It’s bad enough that the majority people are not to clear on what it is, it’s worse when people join up because it’s an ‘IN” thing.

Note to the general public.

This isn’t Information Technology.

The only lines of code you might be dealing with in the future would be the ones coding your own life. You can’t just save and debug it later when the customer makes complaints to Tech support.

You got to have a few qualifications handy if you ever want to enter a biotech career and it’s not just the ones on paper with good grades. So to makes things easier for you and to save time not making the wrong decision. This is a list of what you really need to be in this line of work:

  1. Think outside the box and beyond the big picture.
  2. Love and understand science like it was your entire existence.
  3. Ability to be smart yet look cool while wearing glasses, a lab coat or a biocontainment suit.
  4. See number 1.

Seriously though, if you’re not a person who can think outside the box and make your own rules as you go along in order to produce results, this isn’t exactly a career for you. As a biotechnologist, you got to think on your feet, gathering information and manipulating it to your own benefit without people telling you to. You got to see things that are not there yet and carve a road that hasn’t been walked upon. You got to know when to do the right things at the right place at right time.

Most of all…you got to be responsible for the consequence of your actions.

People have spent years trying to discover and understand the universe that’s out there. To me, we’ve just been looking at the wrong place for centuries. There is an entire universe in every living thing. Wrapped in cell, super-coiled and totally alien to us. It is the key to everything we are. The window to everything we were and everything we can be.

To me at least, biotechnology is that world where dreams can come true. Where we take back the future into our own hands and walk that path into a whole different level of existance on its own.

Now that is something worth looking foward to.

That…and maybe watching me use the force while I duel criminals in the lab with lightsabers.

11 thoughts on “Biotechnology 101: What You Should Know

  1. I hate to admit but I really thought biotechnology was related to engineering in the beginning. Yeah, a price to pay for being ignorant. *smacks head*

    Thanks for sharing some light about biotech. Now I shall go rant about it to someone who know nuts about it. *grins*

  2. sweetie: Biotechnology and biochemical / biomedical engineering are related; something like chemistry and chemical engineering, if you will.

    The major difference? Engineers worry about bringing the cost down more than anything else.

  3. Elb: That is so not true. Everyone worries about costs as well…especially researchers like us who are attached to Universities. We have to work within the boundaries of the funding we’re allowcated. It’s all about mentality as well. Besides, Biotechnology is a different field of its own already, we DO have bioinformatics and biomedical engineering but that’s comepletely difference class from true biotechnology in the first place. It’s just misconceptions that’s all.

  4. ed: Well, when I refer to costs, I’m referring to the cost of the mass production of the product for public consumption.

  5. Elb: The sad thing here is that a lot of people don’t realise how much non-essential research can actually save those costs in the future…and is entirely dependant on government allowcated funding. It take time for all those research to be put to use on a consumer scale, when that happens, it saves lives and money overall.

  6. i’m all for research, though i’m not keen on doing any myself since am no good at thinking outside the proverbial box. which is why i decided not to take up biotech and go do medicine, which is only one of the fields that benefit from biotech research. haha.

    anyway, good post. esp the bits about people jumping onto the bandwagon just cuz biotech is “cool”. i guess people don’t realise that biotech isn’t just what they see on csi or on designed-to-make-people-panic news about clones and whatever.

    i really doubt that half the people reading biotech in uni now have the kind of passion you do though. sad huh.

  7. Jax: Yeah well…I guess I have to live with it. It’s hard to find someone in biotech right now with that same mean streak I have for it though. Though…as much as I love CSI…I know it’s complete utter science fiction. Would be cool though…too bad there are a lot of people who are going to be disappointed in it when they realise what forensics really is about.

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