What Is Biotechnology?

To understand biotech patents, it's important to have a better understanding of the field of biotechnology. Biotechnology involves the use of biological systems, processes, or organisms in the manufacturing of products intended for improvement of the quality of life for humans. Human beings have harnessed biology over centuries to manufacture essentials, including food items and medicinal products from the plants around them.

Some of the earliest known people in the biotechnology field were farmers who participated in cross-breeding to change and improve plant and animal species. In the recent past, advancements in technology have drastically increased the biotechnology field, enabling it to become the giant it is today. In fact, biotechnology touches just about every aspect of human life.

Biotechnology patent applications have been filed by inventors for more than several centuries. For example, a patent was granted in the United Kingdom in 1787 (Patent No. GB 178701625). This patent claimed the invention of a composition similar to yeast that was used in baking and made from mashed potatoes. Microbiologist Louis Pasteur also received a patent for an improved method of making yeast in 1783 from the French Patent Office.

The European economy relies heavily on biotechnology as a major industrial sector. It provides growth and employment opportunities for those in Europe, along with useful products for its citizens, including those relating to medical care and treatment.

The field of biotechnology includes many different products and processes, including:

  • Pharmaceutical and medical products, which cover 55 percent of all biotechnology patents
  • Industrial processes, which cover 41 percent of all biotechnology patents
  • Agriculture, which covers 4 percent of all biotechnology patents

Biotechnology includes industrial and scientific disciplines focused on the understanding and manipulation of materials and living creatures on a molecular level. This type of science often involves analyzing genetic information and DNA techniques. Biotechnology today plays a major role in breakthroughs across multiple fields, such as environmental protection, health, energy, and food.

Biotechnology: The Opportunities and Stakes

Science Magazine reported that the biotechnology field in North America has grown to include nearly 1,300 companies and a market capitalization of more than $200 billion. Additionally, the sales in the biotechnology industry are over $13.4 billion, while the revenues are more than $18.6 billion, marking an increase of more than double the values in 1993. These statistics came from Ernst & Young, a major consulting firm. In order to build and fund that level of growth, biotechnology companies in the United States invested $9.9 billion in research and development initiatives, which also helped to create more jobs and maintain the steady pipeline of solutions. 

Another area in which biotechnology plays a major role is competition. According to research by the Battelle and Biotechnology Industry Organization, the increasing competition on a global scale encourages countries to take part in this rapidly growing industry. Both developed and developing countries want a piece of the high-growth, high-wage industry.

Additional research from the National Technical Information Service shows that many nations target biotechnology as one of the critical factors in the growth of their economies. For example, China continues to invest heavily in this sector and plans to maintain the annual growth rate of 20 percent. Other nations of all sizes have new biotechnology companies popping up, such as:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Munich, Germany
  • Taiwan
  • Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, Canada
  •  Japan
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • France
  • Denmark
  • Belgium
  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Malaysia
  • Switzerland

The American biotechnology industry has an advantage, due to its unique infrastructure for biomedical advancements, leading private and public research institutions, and support from the federal government. Within the American system, those in academia, the private sector, and the government can collaborate, which creates a stronger presence that has become a leader on a global scale. Maintaining this leadership will be tested in the future, especially as the competition continues to increase and demand for better products continues to grow. In order to maintain the economy and boost strategic growth, it is critical for America to keep up the competitive advantage.

Biotechnology is also revolutionizing the field of health care. This branch of science has played a major role in preventing, treating, and diagnosing diseases, as well as other health care breakthroughs. Research has shown that disorders and diseases often are more complex in their origins rather than being connected to one gene or set of genes. 

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