The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as “any technological application that uses biological systems and living organisms or their derivatives for the creation or modification of products or processes for specific uses.”
Biotechnology is present today in many sectors of activity and used in product development in many industries, such as cosmetics, food, fuels and chemicals. As a result, companies and public administrations are investing more and more resources in R&D activities related to biotechnology.
Biotechnology can be of several types: green biotechnology or biotechnology applied to processes related to agriculture and forestry production, white biotechnology applied to industrial processes, gray biotechnology oriented to the environment, blue biotechnology related to the sea, and red biotechnology oriented to medicine and human health.
Advances in biotechnology geared towards medicine and human health have been exponential in recent times, with research progressing at a speed that years ago would have been unthinkable. The improvement of the diseases diagnosis, regenerative medicine, and the improvement of medical treatments are some of the main ones, with their positive contribution to both healthcare systems and patients’ lives
Other applications of biotechnology, that are already part of the medical practice, are molecular diagnosis, biological drugs, cell engineering, genetic determinations associated with the propensity or development of diseases, and even the development of vaccines in record time, as we have seen in the wake of SARS-CoV-2.
Multidisciplinary teams, made up of doctors, engineers, mathematicians, programmers and technologists, are already beginning to form part of medical teams in industry and research, supported by bioinformatics, big data, increasingly complex algorithms, and automated machine learning (AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning).
The paradigm shift where the individual suffering from a disease becomes the focus of a therapeutic action and not the disease itself suffered by the patient, which is the traditional approach, has brought with it the concepts of precision medicine or personalized medicine. Today, personalized medicine has an approach towards groups of individuals with similar genetic characteristics, in such a way that it tries to understand the disease at a molecular level, study how the response to treatments occurs, individualize that response, improve the treatment based on it, and optimize the effectiveness of drugs both in the outcomes and in the side effects.
However, these new fields of research and development in medical biotechnology face some significant barriers. Access to funding for R&D projects, complex regulation, many bureaucratic procedures, insufficient public-private collaboration, are some of them. To benefit patients from these advances, it is necessary to bring them into clinical practice more quickly, shortening the go to market timelines.