The Bio revolution: a technology for the challenges of our world.
Here is how this technology is searching to improve our present and future.
As we continue evolving in the field of science and technology, achieving discoveries; we also face enormous challenges. Challenges related to the world we live in, and to the knowledge we gain from the universe around us. There are also the challenges that come from our interaction with our environment, like climate change. On this matter, The World Economic Forum has set the 10 biggest global challenges that we need to resolve. These challenges present an opportunity to improve and take a leap for achieving a better world through Biotechnology:
- Food security
- Income inequality
- Climate change
- Global finance
- Access to internet
- Gender equality
- Global trend and investment
- Long-term investing
What is Biotechnology?
In a convention on biological diversity, The United Nations defined Biotechnology as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use”. With the advance of technology through knowledge, the potential of biotechnology has expanded to areas like agriculture, medicine, energy, consumer goods, and more. The advances in biological sciences and the development of recent technologies like artificial intelligence and automation among others in the context of the 4.0 era, has brought up to us what is known as the Bio revolution.
The Bio revolution.
The Bio revolution is the sum of two fields of knowledge: Biology and technology. From here we should understand what both of these fields are, to understand how they work together. So, let us begin with the basics: What is biology? According to the department of biology from the NTNU:
“The word biology is derived from the greek words /bios/ meaning /life/ and /logos/ meaning /study/ and is defined as the science of life and living organisms. An organism is a living entity consisting of one cell e.g., bacteria, or several cells e.g., animals, plants, and fungi. Aspects of biological science range from the study of molecular mechanism in cells, to the classification and behaviour of organisms, how species evolve and interaction between ecosystems”.
Biology work with other fields of knowledge like toxicology, chemistry, medicine, physics, geography, astronomy. And as the world is entering a new era defined as the fourth industrial revolution, biology and the recent technologies are shaping the present and transforming how the future will look.
According to McKinsey & Company, the technologies accompanying the breakthroughs in biological sciences are:
To understand better how these technologies integrate with Biotechnology, we need to know better these technological concepts:
Data analytics apply statistics to biological problems, which is also known as Biostatistics or Biometrics, using programming tools for research like Python and R, and pulling data from databases like SQL.
Machine Learning finds gene coding regions in the structure prediction with an accuracy between 70% and 80% and extract features from data sets to develop models analysed by algorithms. Its application in biotechnology is the classification of genotype, sick or healthy individuals, toxicity prediction, the prediction of molecular properties, biological activities, and toxicity evaluations.
Biological engineering is “the application of engineering principles to analyze and solve problems within — and by utilizing — biological systems. It’s designing technology that can be harmonious with the biology of living systems.” As The University of People explains. As examples of use according to The Institute of Biological Engineering, we have that “biological engineers design medical devices ranging from glucose sensors to materials and structures for hip replacements, new processes which can clean our air and water, genetically engineer bacteria to produce fuel, pharmaceuticals, or remove toxins, and develop equipment which harvests and process our food”.
For the Engineering and Technology History Wiki Computing or “Bioinformatics is a scientific field that uses the tools of Computer Science and Information Technology towards achieving a better understanding of Biology”. These tools use DNA sequences, database storage, and search, among others.
Automation is defined on the paper In vivo robotics: the automation of neuroscience and other intact-system biological fields as “Semi-autonomous machines integrate hardware, wetware, and software from precision-engineered or microfabricated parts to nimbly load, manipulate, and measure thousands to millions of biological samples simultaneously, more rapidly, more sensitively, more accurately, or in a more repeatable manner than manual approaches”.
The same research paper gives us examples of applications in “automated phenotyping to high-throughput screening to imaging to genome sequencing”, in “the race to sequence the human genome”, the use of “Fluid handling robots” and “Automated plate readers and microscopy methods”.
Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we transform data into information that can be analyzed faster with a lesser cost. In the case of medical applications, Prabhu Prasad in his research paper Role of artificial intelligence in biotechnology explain how the “old-style measurable examination or manual picture checking” can improve using A.I. to “do the truly difficult work” so “this data will be accessible for a forthcoming medication before the medication is ever tried in people”.
What can we expect from the Bio revolution?
Faced with the challenges that exist in today’s world, the Bio revolution is key to finding the solutions that will allow us to progress sustainably and protect the planet and all the species that live on it. The hope that technology gives us must go hand in hand with our ability to learn from our mistakes. It is our responsibility to make technology a transformative tool, for the good of all.