By Juan Garzón Vela, Cultzyme
In a world shaped by modern technology, from the internet to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), our lives have become entwined with innovation. The industrial revolution irreversibly catalysed a shift in our society, utilising automation to accelerate production. The internet then fostered unprecedented connectivity and we are now heading into a new era of advancements in AI and smart automation.
In an ever-evolving world faced with unparalleled challenges, the global landscape is marked by complex issues, from climate change and pandemics to resource scarcity, social inequality and an ageing population. Scientists are studying these issues to understand their causes and discover potential solutions. However, relying on traditional approaches is too slow to harness the change we need, there is a pressing need to accelerate technological progress.
Where are we?
Alongside the digital revolution, we are seeing transformational progress in biotechnology. We think of biotech as a relatively modern industry, but the term biotechnology was first used in 1919. You could say humans have been exploring aspects of biotech for much longer with selective breeding and fermentation being common practices for centuries. Biotech as we know it is based on this fundamental knowledge, but by expanding our understanding of genetics and utilising modern technologies, we are increasingly able to precisely control these biological functions.
Biotech offers potential solutions for our biggest challenges including the climate crisis, food security and health. It is vital that we maximise the impact of this ever-growing industry and deliver on these time critical, global issues.
While there are many contributing factors to climate change, it is well established that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel usage are a major cause, and one we must tackle if we are to minimise global temperature increases. Not only does this mean reducing the use of fossil fuels for transport, but also finding alternative methods to produce common chemicals and materials that have traditionally relied on petrochemical feedstocks. Biofuels and bio-engineering promise alternatives that could dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and in some cases, use waste materials as their start points.
Accelerated global population growth, compounded by climate change and the persistent threat of new agricultural pathogens, has precipitated a critical food security situation. It is becoming evident that conventional animal husbandry practices face insurmountable resource and space constraints. Moreover, their environmental impact has raised questions around their long-term sustainability.
With this urgent need for change, biotechnology offers hope. The innovative and tangible solutions that this discipline can provide are fundamental to delivering global food security and paving the way for more efficient and sustainable production.
Alternative proteins have captured the attention of the scientific business community. These innovative protein sources can not only alleviate pressure on limited natural resources, but also have the potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the food industry. This represents a paradigm shift in the way we approach food production, but its long-term viability is dependent on continued advancement in biotechnology. The challenge now is to continue to drive biotechnology innovation to bring these solutions to market competitively, offering nutritious and sustainable options that can meet current and future global food needs.
As life expectancies increase, so do the risks of age-related diseases, exacerbated by antibiotic resistance and the looming threat of pandemics. Healthcare systems are struggling to cope with this growing demand. To meet these global health challenges, advanced technology is crucial for effective therapeutic advancement. The convergence of medical expertise and cutting-edge technology is the key to breakthroughs such as genomics and precision medicine, accelerated by collaboration. Technological integration that promotes medical innovation is critical to overcoming health obstacles and ensuring the well-being of the world’s population.
Where are we headed?
While biotechnology presents promising advancements across various disciplines, gaps remain that demand further attention. Effective solutions often come at a cost, and the pressing need to extend these benefits to disadvantaged segments of our society adds another important consideration.
A considerable portion of biotechnological innovation to date has been achieved through the adaptation of established engineering practices and technologies. However, untapped potential still remains through machinery enhancement. The concept of integration emerges as a key facilitator in this evolution. By seamlessly incorporating breakthroughs from diverse fields such as sensor technology, cloud computing, AI, machine learning, and automation, we open avenues to vastly enhance the efficiency of bioprocessing. This convergence has the power to unlock significant time and resource efficiencies to deliver innovative and accessible solutions.
The synergy between biotechnology and interdisciplinary advancements in digital technologies redefines the landscape of accessible innovations. It enables us to create connected systems and smart machines that will deliver more agile, efficient and adaptable industrial ecosystems.
Our biggest challenges may be daunting, but by tapping into a collective reservoir of knowledge and harnessing the potential of diverse technologies, we can tackle them. This dynamic integration not only accelerates the pace of biotechnological breakthroughs but also paves the way for an inclusive and transformative era of scientific discovery.