What is Industrial Biotechnology?

Industrial biotechnology is recognized as an emerging field of science with great, currently untapped potential. The new approach offers the opportunity to reduce and prevent pollution, improve resource conservation, and reduce the costs associated with many biotechnological methods.

It is predicted that once industrial biotechnology meets its full potential, it may have a more significant impact on the world than other influential sectors such as healthcare and agricultural biotechnology. Its main advantage is that it offers a way to conduct biotechnological processes at reduced costs and with a smaller environmental footprint.

The development of industrial biotechnology will have a profound impact on sectors such as pharmaceuticals, clean energy, and consumer goods. Here, we give an overview of the sector and look into the key drivers of the field and the most significant recent advances.

Introduction to Industrial Biotechnology

An overview of industrial biotechnology: the third wave of biotechnology

The basis of industrial biotechnology is the use of enzymes and microorganisms to generate chemicals (for numerous applications) from renewable sources. Industrial biotechnology is the application of modern biotechnology to the sustainable production of materials, chemicals, and fuels from living cells and/or enzymes (renewable sources).

The field is considered the third wave of biotechnology, following the first wave of medical biotechnology, known as red biotechnology, and the second wave of agricultural biotechnology or green biotechnology.

Due to the benefits of industrial biotechnology processes, such as reduced reliance on energy sources, discounted emissions of greenhouse gases, and decreased waste generation, industrial biotechnology has gained much interest and is being widely adopted. As a result, the field is developing rapidly.

As the sector develops, it may drive a paradigm shift from fossil fuel-based production to bio-based production of value-added chemicals. This will enable related sectors to help reduce their carbon footprints and address climate change.

Drivers of advances in industrial biotechnology

There are several major drivers of advances in industrial biotechnology. Perhaps the most important of these forces is the market economy. Because industrial biotechnology promises the delivery of efficient processes at lower operating costs, the market economy is a key driving force for the widespread adoption of the field.

Potentially of equal importance is the driver of political and social demands that have placed sustainability and environmentally friendly industrial production systems as a priority in a world fighting climate change. As the need to move away from non-renewable sources and raw materials increases, industrial biotechnology will become even more attractive.

Governmental policies are another key driver of industrial biotechnology. Tax incentives, research and development, mandatory-use regulations, loan guarantees, commercialization support, and agricultural feedstock support programs are just some governmental policies that have helped to encourage the adoption of industrial biotechnology.

Finally, technological breakthroughs in enzyme engineering, synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, and the growing omics” toolbox alongside computational systems biology are helping to accelerate the application of the sector.

Clean Energy Concept

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The advancing toolbox of industrial biotechnology

Key drivers have helped to boost advancements in industrial biotechnology that have resulted in the rapid expansion of the toolbox of industrial biotechnology. With this ever-expanding toolbox, scientists can engineer enzymes and whole cells by giving them the tools to identify, analyze, and make theories on the complex mechanisms operating within microorganisms. Additionally, the development of downstream processing technology, which allows scientists to transform laboratory benchtop experiments into industrial processes, is an equally important method that is furthering the advancement of the toolbox of industrial biotechnology. Below, we discuss two of the current most important tools for industrial biotechnology.

Protein engineering is a key tool for industrial biotechnology. Often, scientists identify wild-type enzymes in nature that have therapeutic or commercial potential but are not suitable for an industrial process. Therefore, scientists are working on developing an optimized platform that engineering enzymes with optimized activity, selectivity, thermostability, tolerance, and substrate/ product inhibition to enable enzymes to be commercially viable. Work in this field will likely shape the future of industrial biotechnology.

Second, metabolic engineering is considered an equally important tool for industrial biotechnology. It allows for the manipulation of many cellular functions, such as enzymatic, transport, and regulatory, which facilitates metabolic engineering, changes cellular protein levels, and alters gene expression.

Developments in synthetic biology tools

Recent advances in protein and metabolic engineering have resulted in significant breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology. Now, experts predict that synthetic biology will be the key focus of future advancements in the field. Synthetic biology will help scientists design and build synthetic networks at the sub-cellular level. Synthetic biology, in combination with metabolic engineering, will provide scientists with the tools to generate synthetic pathways that will allow them to build biofuels, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals using novel, more sustainable methodologies.

In the coming years, we expect to see many advances emerging from industrial biotechnology, which may lead to a paradigm shift in various scientific sectors.

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Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.

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