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Biotechnology is the youngest of the sciences and is increasing in knowledge at an unprecedented rate. It is the fastest growing technical discipline and has probably gained more information per year than any other field of science.
The science of biotechnology is an amalgamation of biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and mathematics. The European Federation of Biotechnology considers biotechnology as 'the integration of natural sciences and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services'.
Traditional biotechnology refers to the conventional techniques which have been used for many centuries to produce beer, wine, cheese and many other foods, while 'new' biotechnology embraces all methods of genetic modification by recombinant DNA and cell fusion techniques together with the modern developments of 'traditional' biotechnological processes. Genetic engineering has had profound impact on almost all areas of traditional biotechnology and has further permitted breakthroughs in medicine and agriculture, in particular, that would be impossible by traditional breeding approaches. Some of the most exciting advances are in the development of new pharmaceutical drugs and therapies aimed at improving treatments to many diseases, and in producing healthier foods, selective pesticides, and innovative environmental technologies.
The present industrial activities to be most affected include human and animal food production, alternative energy sources, waste recycling, pollution control, agriculture, aquaculture and forestry. From a medical dimension, biotechnology focus on the development of biological compounds rather than on chemical compounds. They are proteins, hormones, recombinant vaccines, DNA vaccines etc. For example, currently genetically engineered vaccines are available for anthrax, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, tuberculosis, paratyphoid A and B, typhoid, pneumonia, cholera and hepatitis. Other have been developed as therapy for HIV, B-cell lymphoma, adenocarcinomas of breast and colon, prostrate cancer and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and are in early stages of clinical trials. Research on edibles vaccines has been focused on diseases caused by E. coli, V. cholerae and retroviruses. The new techniques will also revolutionise many aspects of medicine, veterinary sciences, and pharmaceutics. The recent mapping of the human genome must be recognised as one of the most significant breakthroughs in human history.